by Kris Dinnison
Let me start by saying that I am a fan of Anne Lamott. Her essays and memoirs have made me giggle and weep, and it would not be an overstatement to say that at certain moments in my life her writing has given me the wisdom and the humor I needed to survive. But since I am making confessions, let me also say that I have always felt disappointed in her works of fiction. Somehow her novels never had the life in them that her nonfiction did. Until now.
Blue Shoe, Lamott's new novel, is an engaging, complex work of fiction that has all the style, voice and connectedness that has made her nonfiction so well-received.
Lamott tells the story of Mattie, a mother of two in the process of divorcing her husband. The marriage was not successful on many levels, but the worst of it was his infidelity. Now Mattie, who works at Sears as a perfect size-12 model, is piecing together a new life for herself and her children from a bizarre collection of friends, family, pets, art and faith. But the challenges are many. She falls in love with one of her new friends, who happens to be -- unfortunately -- married. Her mother is sinking into a fog caused by a series of mini-strokes. Her son is angry; her daughter, a bit compulsive. Amid all this, she begins to uncover some things about her father, whom she had always idealized; they are making her question the past, present and the future she has constructed for herself.
This complex story is told with tenderness and wit, every word a testament to Lamott's unmistakable style. She constructs characters in such a way that they are both flawed and completely likeable. In the end, there are no simplicities here, no good guys or bad guys. There are only people, trying to find some joy, some comfort and something to hold on to.