Friday, February 1, 2013

Book Review: Blue Shoe

I pretty much love Anne Lamott. Actually, this is only the second novel of hers that I've read (Imperfect Birds was my first), but I think I can safely say that I love her (in a reader kind of way) after reading interviews and snippets of essays and these two novels. She's just has such an uncanny sense of recording those ordinary thoughts and fears that most of us have but don't really want to express.

Blue Shoe is Mattie Ryder's story. She's in her late 30s and had finally found the courage to leave her cheating, jerk husband, who almost immediately moves in with his girlfriend. She's really just trying to keep herself together for the first part of the book. That sounds kind of tedious, I know, but this is where Lamott is so amazing for me. I like details. I love Mattie's thought process, for example, about her daughter's nail-biting habits. Mattie remembers how traumatized she was as a girl when her parents called her out and humiliated her; she refuses to do this to her daughter and instead looks for other ways to break her habit. I loved this telling of good parenting. Blue Shoe is filled with moments like this.

As Mattie moves through the first year of her divorce, she starts slowly building a new life. Part of that includes discovering things about her past. Through bits and pieces of conversation, she learns that her father was not who she thought he was. She begins wondering what was really going on in the adult world when she was a child. I know that feeling so well as an adult—looking back and wondering, "what was really going on?" That part of the story was not my favorite part, but it was still intriguing.

And running through the whole novel is the struggle of the sandwich generation. How do we care for our young kids and our aging parents? How do we navigate being a good mother and a good daughter? I love the moments when Mattie looks in the mirror and tries to really see herself, wonders who she is, what others see.

This isn't a novel that reveals great mysteries or holds a series of dramatic events. It's just a novel of an ordinary woman who is pulled in a dozen different directions, who picks herself up and moves on after heartbreak, and who loves those around her deeply. Lamott is an insightful, lyrical writer, and I will be continuing on my pursuit of reading all her books.

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