Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review: Some Assembly Required

Summary: In Some Assembly Required, Anne Lamott enters a new and unexpected chapter of her own life: grandmotherhood. 

Stunned to learn that her son, Sam, is about to become a father at nineteen, Lamott begins a journal about the first year of her grandson Jax's life. 

In careful and often hilarious detail, Lamott and Sam-about whom she first wrote so movingly in Operating Instructions-struggle to balance their changing roles with the demands of college and work, as they both forge new relationships with Jax's mother, who has her own ideas about how to raise a child. Lamott writes about the complex feelings that Jax fosters in her, recalling her own experiences with Sam when she was a single mother. Over the course of the year, the rhythms of life, death, family, and friends unfold in surprising and joyful ways. 

By turns poignant and funny, honest and touching, Some Assembly Required is the true story of how the birth of a baby changes a family-as this book will change everyone who reads it. -- Riverhead

I wouldn't consider myself a fan of Anne Lamott's, but I have read one or two of her books, and I enjoyed them. So when I heard she had a new book out called SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED: A JOURNAL OF MY SON'S FIRST SON that she wrote with her son Sam Lamott, I thought I'd give it a shot. This book told the story of her grandson's first year from the point of view of Ms. Lamott's journal entries and her interviews with her son.

If I'm being entirely honest, I didn't love SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED; or at least, not like I had hoped. Maybe it's because I'm far enough away from the newborn years, and (hopefully) very far away from the grandmother years, but this book didn't really resonate with me. Ms. Lamott's son Sam was only 19 years old when he became a father to Jax and he was still a student, so his life as a parent was very different than mine. In addition, there seemed to be a lot of tension between him and Jax's mother. I was 30 when I had my first child and had been married for six years; and we welcomed a pregnancy. 

And when it came to Ms. Lamott's feelings about being a grandmother, I similarly had a hard time relating to her. While there is no doubt that she positively adored Jax, she seemed to have a lot of issues with her role as a grandmother. It's possible that she was conflicted because her son was so young to be a father, but her worries about Jax seemed to be rather extreme. (Having said that, I've been known to go a little crazy about my kids and their welfare, so who am I to talk?) I also found many of her feelings to be of a jealous nature. On one hand, I was impressed with her honestly and openness; but on the other hand, I thought it was strange by just how jealous she seemed of Jax's mother.

In the past, I've enjoyed reading about Ms. Lamott's faith and her struggles in life, and I saw some signs of this in SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED. However, it just seemed like Ms. Lamott was miserable for much of this book. Her feelings of insecurity were overwhelming and I admit that my heart did go out to her, but I also got tired of reading about how bad everything was. I am far from a glass half full kind of person, but Ms. Lamott seemed to focus on the negatives so much of the time.

That's not to say that there weren't parts of this book where Ms. Lamott spoke of her spirituality and the blessings she's been given, and those were probably what I enjoyed the most about this book. She is a beautiful writer and her insight can be very powerful and thought-provoking. But the negative feelings almost overpowered those special parts to me. What I did find myself really enjoying, though, were the scenes where she contacted some of her friends. I absolutely loved the advice they gave her and I found myself re-reading some of their words of wisdom because they rang true to me. I felt as if I could apply so much of what they said about faith, spirituality, and life in general.

Overall, SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED won't go down an one of my favorite Anne Lamott books. I think grandmothers might appreciate SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED more than I did, and it's possible that I just might not be the target audience for this book. Having said that, I did discover some beautiful ideas that made me think about my life and my role as a mother and wife.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.


Serena said...

This sounds like an interesting take on grandmotherhood. Thanks for the honest review.

Beth F said...

I think I liked this better than you did. I appreciated her honesty about her struggle to come to terms will the mix of joy and apprehension.

bermudaonion said...

I don't think I'll be a grandmother any time soon, if ever. A lot of my friends are, though, and many of them struggle with their roles. The book sounds interesting.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I agree that sometimes, even if you sympathize, it can just be tedious to hear stuff over and over!

caite said...

I am not a fan of memoirs and this sounds just a bit too negative for my taste. which is my frequent problem with memoirs...

Alyce said...

It's too bad that it didn't work better for you. I think it's one my mom might be able to relate to, since she became a grandmother at 36 - which is so hard to comprehend because that's only a year older than I am now.

Jenners said...

I just read this (still need to write my review) and I had a very different reaction than yours. I thought she was very self-deprecating and brutally honest about her neuroses and issues with Amy and her need to be "in control." I think given that her son was so young when he became a dad, she came to grandmotherhood from a very different place than most grandmothers.