"Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son," by Anne Lamott with Sam Lamott (Riverhead Books)
Anne Lamott? A grandmother? Didn't we just read and fall in love with "Operating Instructions," her hilarious 1994 memoir about pregnancy and childbirth? In a word, yes.
Thankfully, Lamott addresses this fact in the opening pages of her wonderful new book co-authored with that celebrated son. "Amy was 20 when she delivered, and Sam was 19. They're both a little young, but who asked me," she writes in "Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son." "I'd always looked forward with enthusiasm to becoming a grandmother someday … when I was old enough to be a grandmother." Instead, Lamott was a self-described "ripe 55."
And off we go.
None of Lamott's trademark sharp wit and self-deprecating humor has suffered despite her new status. Being a grandmother simply provides more fodder to do what she does best — say the unsayable.
"I thought about Jax in every port and every town, like a bad song," she writes. "I was medium (expletive) that Sam and Amy had dropped off the radar, and I decided that I would not get them the great presents I had intended to. This is how we Christians do things."
Lamott delves into the difference between motherhood and grandmother-hood. And she doesn't pull any punches when analyzing her son's relationship with the mother of his child. (At the book's end, we're unsure whether it works out.)
Sam Lamott's writing features prominently here, and his voice is calm and kind — a stabilizing force that sounds wiser than his years. But it's also a bit jarring. His emails and informal interviews introduced by his mom interrupt the flow of Lamott's keen storytelling ability.
Despite its few shortcomings, "Some Assembly Required," like so many of Lamott's books, leaves readers with new insights. For example, just after his first Thanksgiving, she tells Jax the secret to a happy life: "You will go through your life thinking there was a day in second grade that you must have missed, when the grown-ups came in and explained everything important to the other kids … the way the whole world works. But there was not such a day in school. No one got the instructions. That is the secret of life. Everyone is flailing around, winging it most of the time, trying to find the way out, or through, or up, without a map."