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Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year

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The most honest, wildly enjoyable book written about motherhood is surely Anne Lamott's account of her son Sam's first year. A gifted writer and teacher, Lamott (Crooked Little Heart) is a single mother and ex-alcoholic with a pleasingly warped social circle and a remarkably tolerant religion to lean on. She responds to the changes, exhaustion, and love Sam brings with apl The most honest, wildly enjoyable book written about motherhood is surely Anne Lamott's account of her son Sam's first year. A gifted writer and teacher, Lamott (Crooked Little Heart) is a single mother and ex-alcoholic with a pleasingly warped social circle and a remarkably tolerant religion to lean on. She responds to the changes, exhaustion, and love Sam brings with aplomb or outright insanity. The book rocks from hilarious to unbearably poignant when Sam's burgeoning life is played out against a very close friend's illness. No saccharine paean to becoming a parent, this touches on the rage and befuddlement that dog sweeter emotions during this sea change in one's life.


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The most honest, wildly enjoyable book written about motherhood is surely Anne Lamott's account of her son Sam's first year. A gifted writer and teacher, Lamott (Crooked Little Heart) is a single mother and ex-alcoholic with a pleasingly warped social circle and a remarkably tolerant religion to lean on. She responds to the changes, exhaustion, and love Sam brings with apl The most honest, wildly enjoyable book written about motherhood is surely Anne Lamott's account of her son Sam's first year. A gifted writer and teacher, Lamott (Crooked Little Heart) is a single mother and ex-alcoholic with a pleasingly warped social circle and a remarkably tolerant religion to lean on. She responds to the changes, exhaustion, and love Sam brings with aplomb or outright insanity. The book rocks from hilarious to unbearably poignant when Sam's burgeoning life is played out against a very close friend's illness. No saccharine paean to becoming a parent, this touches on the rage and befuddlement that dog sweeter emotions during this sea change in one's life.

30 review for Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year

  1. 5 out of 5

    Skylar Burris

    Anne Lamott is the epitome of the vitriolic, hateful liberal. The catch is that she actually seems to realize it. Throughout Operating Instructions, one finds scatterings of an understanding that there’s something not quite consistent about preaching love, mercy, and non-judgmentalism while simultaneously ripping apart Republicans as a group, actively training one’s child to revile them, and comparing them to the greatest of evils. She actually gets that there’s something not quite right about r Anne Lamott is the epitome of the vitriolic, hateful liberal. The catch is that she actually seems to realize it. Throughout Operating Instructions, one finds scatterings of an understanding that there’s something not quite consistent about preaching love, mercy, and non-judgmentalism while simultaneously ripping apart Republicans as a group, actively training one’s child to revile them, and comparing them to the greatest of evils. She actually gets that there’s something not quite right about running on hatred. But she doesn’t know how to let it go, either, because, in some ways, it defines her. This, I suppose is a reflection of her larger Christian journey – and perhaps the journey of nearly all Christians: seeing the new man at last, but still struggling to shed the old one. Although Lamott does not seem to feel that there’s something not quite right about sleeping around casually and having numerous abortions, this time she does feel that there’s something not quite right about aborting this particular child – she wants it, even though the father doesn’t, even though she’ll have to face the difficult challenge of raising it alone. (Not that she’s really alone; she has amazing friends and family, a loving church, and, of course, her faith.) So she has Sam, and she writes a journal of his first year, or, more accurately, a journal of her first year as a mother – a raw, honest journal that reveals feelings most mothers would be loathe to confess. There are moments of great beauty in this journal – wonderful turns of phrase, graspings of the magnificence of mercy, glimpses into Christ reflected in the love and compassion of everyday people. The book is an easy read, because she writes well. I just wish I could like the author more. She describes herself well – an egomaniac with a low self-image problem. But maybe that, in the end, is what makes the book so interesting – it’s human-ness, it’s bold honesty, it’s revelation of the flawed and fallen yet – ultimately – redeemed human being, the mother struggling to make it through her first year. The book has passages that are achingly beautiful, as well as passages that are achingly pretentious. Some sentences caused me to laugh, others caused me to cry, and still others caused me to roll my eyes. Lamott employs so many impressive analogies for faith, stories and descriptions that demonstrate the tentativeness, the tenderness, the necessity, the beauty, the not-quite-sufficient sufficiency, the depth, and the difficulty of faith – how faith is like waiting, expectantly, half-hopefully, for our next operating instructions from God.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Bash

    I teach at Creighton University, and so (like most instructors) was appalled when Lamott was "disinvited," but never more than after I read this book. It's been a long time since I've laughed out loud while reading a book, and longer since a book has provoked guffaws (seriously, hearty laughter) AND reflection, revelation, and grief. "Honest" is a perfect word to describe this book, which bravely (I think) puts out there the concept that being a mother isn't always being 100% in love with your c I teach at Creighton University, and so (like most instructors) was appalled when Lamott was "disinvited," but never more than after I read this book. It's been a long time since I've laughed out loud while reading a book, and longer since a book has provoked guffaws (seriously, hearty laughter) AND reflection, revelation, and grief. "Honest" is a perfect word to describe this book, which bravely (I think) puts out there the concept that being a mother isn't always being 100% in love with your child, that it isn't always the most wildly blissful experience, that sometimes mothers do wish they could make their babies disappear. And yet, there is such tenderness in the way she begs repeatedly of God to let her son outlive her (using an image that's always killed me: baby turtles just born, struggling across the beach to the water, picked off one by one by circling birds). This is a woman who runs straight at the truth in her prose, and as a reader I often felt the impact resonate through me. I'm not a mother, and I don't know about the whole God thing, but wow, did this book arrest my movement through life and give me some things to think about.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Keri

    This is the best parenting book ever! Right when you feel like you have hit the wall, Anne Lammott makes it OK to feel all the frustrations and pain as well as the awe and overwhelming love for your little offspring. When my second child refused to sleep more than 2 hours at a time for 3, count em, 3 months while I was working full time...I bought every book about getting your child to sleep that I could find. I finally called in sick, sent my kid to day care, and read this entire book in one da This is the best parenting book ever! Right when you feel like you have hit the wall, Anne Lammott makes it OK to feel all the frustrations and pain as well as the awe and overwhelming love for your little offspring. When my second child refused to sleep more than 2 hours at a time for 3, count em, 3 months while I was working full time...I bought every book about getting your child to sleep that I could find. I finally called in sick, sent my kid to day care, and read this entire book in one day (between naps). I had already read it with my first baby, but I felt so restored that I had the strength to face more sleepless nights. Just another reminder that laughing helps everything.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joanne

    A friend of mine gave me a copy of this book while I was pregnant, and he never knew what a favor he truly did for me. Anne Lamott writes all the gritty details of the thoughts that go through any sleep deprived parent's mind, but we aren't ever brave enough to admit them, sometimes not even to ourselves. Having already read about some crazy lady (Anne Lamott) wondering if she could leave her baby out in the cold and see if that whole "survival of the fittest" thing would work out, I was far more A friend of mine gave me a copy of this book while I was pregnant, and he never knew what a favor he truly did for me. Anne Lamott writes all the gritty details of the thoughts that go through any sleep deprived parent's mind, but we aren't ever brave enough to admit them, sometimes not even to ourselves. Having already read about some crazy lady (Anne Lamott) wondering if she could leave her baby out in the cold and see if that whole "survival of the fittest" thing would work out, I was far more forgiving when I hadn't slept in weeks and found myself daydreaming about similar psychotic scenarios. Sleep deprivation is a real bitch, and a screaming baby that depends on you for life can be a real cheese grater on your nerves. Knowing there are other parents that think those crazy thoughts and don't actually DO them can make a world of difference in the way new parents handle the stress of it all. The birth of your child is also the death of the life you once knew. It may be similar, but it will never be the same. Anne Lamott graciously shows us we don't have to be graceful about it, we can go through it kicking and screaming, too. Her honesty is a blessing to us all.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andi

    Hold your hats, folks. I’m about to get all “over-the-top” in this review. I needed this book right now, with all it’s one-lines that make me laugh out loud. You should have seen me last evening, lying in the grass outside my church (it was only in the 70s yesterday, and today, with a light breeze - perfect grass lying weather) and laughing like a maniac. I’m sure all the Amish people who came by in their buggies must have thought I was nuts. So this book is the journal that Lamott kept during her Hold your hats, folks. I’m about to get all “over-the-top” in this review. I needed this book right now, with all it’s one-lines that make me laugh out loud. You should have seen me last evening, lying in the grass outside my church (it was only in the 70s yesterday, and today, with a light breeze - perfect grass lying weather) and laughing like a maniac. I’m sure all the Amish people who came by in their buggies must have thought I was nuts. So this book is the journal that Lamott kept during her son’s first year of life. It’s a story of love and fear - all that stuff that comes with a kid, I assume - and is so honest, so so honest. And funny, really funny. Take this, for example: November 22 - I wish he could take longer naps in the afternoon. He falls asleep and I feel I could die of love when I watch him, and I think to myself that he is what angels look like. Then I doze off, too, and it’s like heaven, but sometimes only twenty minutes later he wakes up and begins to make his gritchy rodent noises, scanning the room wildly. I look blearily over at him in the bassinet, and think, with great hostility, Oh, God, he’s raising his loathsome reptilian head again. When I go over to the bassinet to pick him up, though, he looks up at me like I’m Coco the clown - he beams, and makes raspberries, and does frantic bicycle kicks like he’s doing his baby aerobics. Then I feel I can go on. I’ve never been so up and down in my life, so erratic and wild. My body is slow getting back to normal, except for my butt and thighs. I have to keep remembering the line about the little earth suits and that I am a feminist, because the thighs are just not doing all that well. I lay in the bathtub yesterday looking at them, thinking of entering the annual Hemingway write-alike contest with a piece called, “Thighs like White Elephants.” And then part of me thinks, Hey, who fucking cares. That voice, that sarcastic, bitter but ultimately beautiful voice is what I love about Anne Lamott. I’m going to give this book to every friend of mine who has a kid - which is most of them - so that they don’t feel so alone when they think their baby has a reptilian head. And I’m going to remember this book when I hold their babies and wonder what goes on in those little brains. The only sad part about having finished this book is that now I’m out of Lamott books to read. Annie, get writing would ya?

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alla

    This is not an empowering book. This is a let-me-feel-sorry-for-myself kind of book. At some point, it has become hip and "good writing" to use profanity and say shocking things like "I hate my baby". While I acknowledge that feeling overwhelmed is very real for some mothers, especially those without a partner (myself included in the latter category), reading "Operating Instructions" gave me a dark feeling, somewhat akin to the feeling that reading Dostoevsky causes (minus the mastery of the pro This is not an empowering book. This is a let-me-feel-sorry-for-myself kind of book. At some point, it has become hip and "good writing" to use profanity and say shocking things like "I hate my baby". While I acknowledge that feeling overwhelmed is very real for some mothers, especially those without a partner (myself included in the latter category), reading "Operating Instructions" gave me a dark feeling, somewhat akin to the feeling that reading Dostoevsky causes (minus the mastery of the prose). Lamott describes herself as being in a dark hole most of that first year, unwashed, depressed, extremely tired and lonely, with rare glimpses of her son's beauty. I think a lot of her issues stem from the self-acknowledged substance abuse problems of the past and losing her father some years earlier though, not from having a baby on her own. All in all, I would much rather read a positive, upbeat book written by somebody who is capable of maintaining self-discipline and organizing their lives than an author who aims at being brutally honest but really sounds like another common wreck of a person.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    This is a great, lovely book about having a newborn. I had a blast reading it because I don’t have a newborn anymore (a three & a half-year-old is a whole other flavor of getting your ass kicked) & it’s easy to have fond feelings about G's babyhood that are based on totally false recollections. "Remember when we could just set him on the couch & he couldn't go anywhere? Remember when he took two whole naps a day? Ah, such good times." I am an idiot. I was so constantly exhausted that my skeleton This is a great, lovely book about having a newborn. I had a blast reading it because I don’t have a newborn anymore (a three & a half-year-old is a whole other flavor of getting your ass kicked) & it’s easy to have fond feelings about G's babyhood that are based on totally false recollections. "Remember when we could just set him on the couch & he couldn't go anywhere? Remember when he took two whole naps a day? Ah, such good times." I am an idiot. I was so constantly exhausted that my skeleton hurt, and while you could set G on the couch & he couldn’t go anywhere, he’d just start crying hysterically, so it wasn’t actually that cool. Lamott gazes at her napping son, thinking sweetly how angelic he is; she falls asleep, he wakes her up a few minutes later, and she thinks, “Oh great, he’s raising his monstrous lizard head again.” Yeah, I know that feeling. Every ludicrous fear she has that she’s broken Sam’s neck because she hit a pothole in the car, all her amazement at his star-like little hands, his gigantic round eyes, and his porno-baby puffy lips, every time she’s been listening to him cry for hours & she wants to give him back – every bit of this is totally spot-on. It’s so accurate to my own life that when she comments about how Sam can now say more than “Ah-goo” I laughed out loud. Ah-goo is the name of G’s stuffed monkey because it was the first animal he ever noticed & it was also the first thing he could say. This is such a wonderful book & I am absolutely never having another baby.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ann G. Daniels

    Oh how I wish I had read this book when my children were babies! Then perhaps I would have realized I was not alone in finding new motherhood so hard while loving my children so unbearably much. Annie Lamott just nails it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie

    Even if you have never been a parent, your kids have grown up, read this for the sheer pleasure of it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tia

    I read this after reading Some Assembly Required & hating it. Reviewers swore up & down that even if I thought Anne Lamott was an ape-shit mother-in-law, I'd like her as a mom. So I gave her writing a second chance. I do not like her at all. In fact, I dislike her more than I did before reading this. In theory, I should like her. Like me, she is a female writer, a mother, a liberal, a Christian. Every negative review I found for this book was someone complaining about her political & religious vi I read this after reading Some Assembly Required & hating it. Reviewers swore up & down that even if I thought Anne Lamott was an ape-shit mother-in-law, I'd like her as a mom. So I gave her writing a second chance. I do not like her at all. In fact, I dislike her more than I did before reading this. In theory, I should like her. Like me, she is a female writer, a mother, a liberal, a Christian. Every negative review I found for this book was someone complaining about her political & religious views. That was not my problem with this book. However, I found countless other things about it to be problematic. For example: 1. She's a closet racist. It was apparent in the book about her grandson, but even more in this one. She goes on and on about how some friend or acquaintance of hers is gay, or "very black" - whatever the hell that means. She clearly wants everyone to know how liberal & open-minded she thinks she is. But she never says anyone is her straight, Caucasian friend. I guess she thinks that goes without saying, and doesn't need pointed out. She talks TWICE about her hair being nappy, like black people's, and how she's so glad her son got white people hair. It made me very uncomfortable to read. Kind of like all her stereotypes about her Mexican daughter-in-law in Some Assembly Required. 2. Her comments about uncircumcised penises were absolutely disgusting. Especially the part where she makes a joke about how hard an uncut baby penis would be to clean - proving that she has no idea what the hell she's talking about, and also she's kind of a bitch. I found it creepy that she decides to get her son's genitals cut based on her own sexual preference. Unless she was planning on having incest with her son, I can't see how that's relevant. 3. She is SO whiny. She spent the entire book complaining about not having a partner to raise her son with, even though she knew that beforehand. The father made it very clear that he would not be in the picture. In fact, he wanted her to abort. She chose to raise the baby on her own. She wasn't blindsided, like moms who have their husbands abandon them & their children one day. She constantly talks about how it's so hard to be a single mom.. But she has a huge support system! She has countless friends, family & church members, as well as a babysitter. They do everything. Bring her food, do her laundry, clean her house, watch her kid, give her baby items. A lot of single welfare moms, or even married women, don't have that kind of help. Not to mention the fact that she has a career as a published author. Teen moms can't say that. 4. The way that she talked about her son truly repulsed me. She'd use vulgar language to describe him, say she hated him, and admit to fantasizing about physically abusing him. This is an innocent & helpless infant she was talking about. He didn't understand why he was in pain. He didn't have the ability to process those emotions, or do anything to make himself feel better. He didn't even have a way to communicate, except to cry. And she admits that his gas pains were caused by her diet while breastfeeding. I have no idea why she'd have so much anger towards her baby. Even on the worst days with my son, when he screams for hours & I'm completely alone, my husband deployed and no friends or family for thousands of miles, I don't feel nasty towards him. I just want to comfort him somehow. Then again, she is your typical privileged white woman. She's never had to think of anyone but herself her entire life, so a baby is an annoying inconvenience. He gets in the way of her "me time" & neurotic self-pitying uselessness. 5. I could not believe how immature she was. She was 35, not 15. She acted like a child, wanting God to wipe her ass for her. I guess that's why she used to be a coke head. Some people can't handle life, even if their life is relatively easy. 6. This entire book was one simile after another. Everything was like some show she saw or poem she read, or moonlight or stars. I'm not exaggerating. The only reason I finished this book was because I was mildly entertained by it. She's such a train wreck. This was the literary equivalent of trash TV. Like watching Jerry Springer.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Karen Backe

    a few things were laugh-outloud-funny, a lot of things were kind of ridiculous. Having a new little dude ourselves, certainly there were moments and events I could relate to, but the self-absorbed self-deprecating thing got really tiresome for me. Also, yes, I get it, you belong to a predominately black church; move on.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marieke

    My friend Michelle lent me this book after we were talking about feminist books about motherhood. I haven’t read anything by Lamott before, but after reading this one I definitely want to read more of her books, both fiction and nonfiction. She has a book about writing called Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life that sounds interesting; I might look it up. Operating Instructions is presented in the form of a journal, excerpted from the personal journal she kept during her first ye My friend Michelle lent me this book after we were talking about feminist books about motherhood. I haven’t read anything by Lamott before, but after reading this one I definitely want to read more of her books, both fiction and nonfiction. She has a book about writing called Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life that sounds interesting; I might look it up. Operating Instructions is presented in the form of a journal, excerpted from the personal journal she kept during her first year of motherhood. From the beginning I am impressed by Lamott’s ability to openly discuss her fears about bringing a child into the world. She makes this serious subject humorous, saying that more than anything she fears the knowledge that her child will have to go through the seventh and eighth grades. But she becomes serious again, asking, “So how on earth can I bring a child into the world, knowing that such sorrow lies ahead, that it is such a large part of what it means to be human?” (11). This question seems to reverberate throughout the book, as she examines the painful aspects of her own life along with the joys. She balances her overwhelming love and faith with an honest, raw portrayal of the trials of single motherhood. More than anything else I am drawn in by her honesty--well, what I assume is honesty. It seems that if someone offers stories of pain, addiction and darkness and laces her stories with self-deprecating humor, she must be honest. Who knows, really. But I think: How could this not be honest. Her words are so deeply felt, so violently real. I believe Lamott’s story, perhaps too much. I believe that a story of motherhood without this total insanity--incredible pain, despair, agony--would be false. Maybe I’m too cynical. But I can easily believe that if I were in her circumstances, raising a newborn baby by myself while trying to support us, I would probably fall into a dark pit of despair and not come out. The challenges of raising a child seem to me to be insurmountable. Not sleeping for months, crying and bleeding, being covered in milk, shit, tears, and vomit, dealing with screaming and crying for hours on end, losing one’s mind... I don’t know if I could survive. Suddenly I look around at all the people I know who have children. How did they do it? Bringing a child into the world and raising it has got to be the most courageous act of heroism I can imagine. Ordinary people seem to have accomplished the impossible--raising children without going insane or killing someone. Either it’s not as hard as I imagine, or all these people are heroes. What Anne Lamott has that I lack is faith in God. This is a beautiful part of her narrative, as lovely and sustaining as her boundless love for her child and the unshakable support of friends, family, and community. Lamott finds strength and love in God and this gets her through some of her darkest moments. The way she portrays her community of friends is holy. They save her with their presence, their gifts of food and love, helping her around the house, taking the baby for a while. Just being with her, sharing the moments with Sam, as if that is the most important thing in the world to be doing. Lamott’s journal is filled with beauty, and heartwrenching love. The awesome mother-love that she feels; realizing that now there is something in her life that she cares about so much, it could destroy her. She says, “I feel that he has completely ruined my life, because I just didn’t used to care all that much” (61). Somehow, Lamott vividly portrays this overwhelming, complex feeling of love, pain, hope, fear, and awe without idealizing motherhood or her baby. She doesn’t hide her darker feelings of anger, frustration, pain, hopelessness, and fear, but lets them into the story as part of the full experience of being a mother. The serious, precious moments of insight are interspersed with funny stories about the baby’s turds or weird animal behaviors. Throughout the journal Lamott throws in humorous interludes, memories of past events, stories about friends and family, and political commentary. The journal is many-layered. It is not just the story of Lamott and her son, but of her family history, her close friendships, her personal difficulties, her career as a writer, and so on. As I neared the end of the book, I wanted it to go on. I wanted to know the people better, to watch Sam as he grew, to hear him start talking and see him go to school. The more personal narratives I read the more I can believe that people’s lives really are very interesting when told in an insightful, powerful way. Life must be inherently interesting, all the challenges and hurdles, funny little foibles, big achievements that are perhaps silly but worth celebrating. Like a baby’s first smile.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This was an Anne Lamott book that I had skipped for years and years, figuring I wouldn't appreciate it until I was a mom. Well, I'm glad I waited. I definitely wouldn't have appreciated it as much if I hadn't been able to connect with the motherhood thing. As much as I loved this book, I feel like it was written for a person like me: a liberal, slightly neurotic, spiritual mom. If you're not all four of these things, you might end up hating this book a little bit, or maybe even a lot. One thing I This was an Anne Lamott book that I had skipped for years and years, figuring I wouldn't appreciate it until I was a mom. Well, I'm glad I waited. I definitely wouldn't have appreciated it as much if I hadn't been able to connect with the motherhood thing. As much as I loved this book, I feel like it was written for a person like me: a liberal, slightly neurotic, spiritual mom. If you're not all four of these things, you might end up hating this book a little bit, or maybe even a lot. One thing I really liked about it was how this book was a peek inside Anne Lamott's writing process. Its subtitle is "A Journal of My Son's First Year," and it truly seems to be a journal that Anne keeps as a writer. She reflects on her craft quite a bit in addition to reflecting on motherhood, and having her practice modeled like this was almost as valuable as Bird by Bird. I found that the act of writing about a baby makes you reflect on what it is to be human, and if it's your own baby, it makes you reflect on what you want for your child and what this means about you as a person. Lamott writes, "I guess he'll have to figure out someday that he is supposed to have this dark side, that it is part of what it means to be human, to have the darkness just as much as the light--that in fact the dark parts make the light visible; without them the light would disappear. But I guess he has to figure other stuff out first, like how to keep his neck from flopping all over the place and how to sit up." The book is filled with moments that the hospital kept warning me were signs of postpartum depression. I myself had a significant amount of postpartum anxiety, such as bursting into tears at the thought of bringing my five-day-old son to the doctor when it was about 2 degrees outside, but Anne's daily journal helped me see what it must be like to have the full-blown depression. It sounds really awful, and I think that this book could really help a mom who's experiencing it understand what's happening to her. As I generally find with Lamott's writing, there were parts that made me laugh out loud (inviting stares from my fellow public transit riders), parts that made me tear up, and lots and lots of parts that made me stop reading just to reflect for a bit on what she had said. Her anxieties about her son sounded so familiar, like the way she would start obsessing about what she would do if her son grew up to be a Republican, but how she mostly just prays and prays that he outlives her. This book made me a little jealous of Lamott, as she has a job that allowed her to stay home with her baby. This would cut me sometimes on my way to or may way home from work, because it's just so hard to leave my infant for twelve hours at a time, five days a week. Her journal made me wish that I could be an established writer who could stay home with her baby and write and write and write.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Eva Marie

    I should have reviewed this when I quit the book but instead I waited so long so I may forget some of what I wanted to say. I do remember this though, Lamott borderline disgusts me. If she bothered me just a smidgen more I'd be thoroughly disgusted with her person. When you pick up this book you tend to think it's about her son's first year of life right? You know, the whole "Journal of My Son's First Year" in the title and all. Well... no. It's a hidden agenda for her political rants. And that I should have reviewed this when I quit the book but instead I waited so long so I may forget some of what I wanted to say. I do remember this though, Lamott borderline disgusts me. If she bothered me just a smidgen more I'd be thoroughly disgusted with her person. When you pick up this book you tend to think it's about her son's first year of life right? You know, the whole "Journal of My Son's First Year" in the title and all. Well... no. It's a hidden agenda for her political rants. And that pisses me off. If that's what she wanted to write about, alone or with snippets about her son and/or home life then fine, but give some warning. Her political and other ranting is a huge part of the book no matter how she tries to slide it in with readers none the wiser. The other big thing that pisses me off here is that she's not funny. Plain and simple./ I can laugh because of someone I don't like so it's not that. She just is not funny. I'm still clueless as to why she - or anyone else for that matter - thought she was important enough to write this. Who the hell is she? Granted, this can be said about a great many books today but that fact doesn't diminish it here. She's so not funny that she has to make jokes that the average person would roll their eyes out. Where these glowing reviews are coming from are beyond me. I think the majority of them are from people who agree with her political view (notice the singular use there if you will) and just want to buddy up. But I have a problem with that. If someone writes a book that I think sucks I'm not going to rate it highly and review it with glowing accolades because I may happen to agree with the author on some idea. And vice versa as well. I'm guessing not everyone feels the same though after reading some of the reviews and reading in between the lines. Oh, well. Oh, by the way, in case you didn't get it the first 200 times around, her son Sam is really fucking beautiful. My daughter is beautiful also but you don't see me publishing a book with over 100 pages of me saying "Julia is so beautiful!" Wtf. In ending I can't believe I let this hunk of shit sit in my house for so long. If no one orders it on PBS in a matter of days I'm really going to throw it in the trash. That way no one else falls victim to her stupid rants.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Just finished this one this morning. This was the kind of book that I resisted because everyone else kept telling me to read it. Also, because I'm writing a lot, I was afraid I'd start writing like Lamott and BINGO! I am. Anyhow, that said, I'm glad I've read it. The end is very sad, sadder because it is true. Reading it also fulfilled that promise that you'll think about your own new motherhood and think: "At least I'm not Anne Lamott." I was going to give the book three stars instead of four b Just finished this one this morning. This was the kind of book that I resisted because everyone else kept telling me to read it. Also, because I'm writing a lot, I was afraid I'd start writing like Lamott and BINGO! I am. Anyhow, that said, I'm glad I've read it. The end is very sad, sadder because it is true. Reading it also fulfilled that promise that you'll think about your own new motherhood and think: "At least I'm not Anne Lamott." I was going to give the book three stars instead of four because I felt like her drug and alcohol addiction overpowered the rest of the text until I realized two things: 1.) the other night during a mental breakdown the only person I had any desire to talk to was Anne Lamott (like we're friends, you know.) 2.) the ending was so powerful, she deserves some kudos for that Oh, and one more thing, twice I laughed so hard while book n' boobing that Silas thought I was crazy!!! Okay, that's it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Book2Dragon

    I've loved Anne Lamott since Bird by Bird. So this book was sort of a catching up with her life as an unexpected mother. She is now a grandmother, chronicled in another book. She is fun to read, although the self-deprecation gets a bit much sometimes. She's the girl you were friends with in middle school and high school. I've loved Anne Lamott since Bird by Bird. So this book was sort of a catching up with her life as an unexpected mother. She is now a grandmother, chronicled in another book. She is fun to read, although the self-deprecation gets a bit much sometimes. She's the girl you were friends with in middle school and high school.

  17. 5 out of 5

    C

    Sometimes I really hate this site. This is easily the third or fourth time this month I have written a multiple-page review only to have it deleted when I click on the "save" button. Sigh. Let me begin again... I love this book. I love this author. I love the honesty of this approach. I love a parent that doesn't buy into the idea that a good parent keeps their damned mouth shut. I love the viewpoint from a parent of a cholicy child (even if her child did start sleeping through the night fairly e Sometimes I really hate this site. This is easily the third or fourth time this month I have written a multiple-page review only to have it deleted when I click on the "save" button. Sigh. Let me begin again... I love this book. I love this author. I love the honesty of this approach. I love a parent that doesn't buy into the idea that a good parent keeps their damned mouth shut. I love the viewpoint from a parent of a cholicy child (even if her child did start sleeping through the night fairly early - mine is 16 months and still not to that point.) I love her liberal, human take on faith. Hence why it lands in my favorite non fiction. So, why does it only receive three stars? Her absolutely barbaric, silly, uneducated take on men. As the primary caretaker of my child and a male, perhaps it hit me harder, but...... All men like staring at themselves erect in a mirror? All men make machine gun noises while they pee? All men are emotionally bereft and unable to be complete? Her claims are as sexist and ridiculous as those who sought to deny women equal rights. Is turnabout fair play or is it just showing your own brand of stupidity? In this case, it just comes across as a sad sort of revenge. Otherwise, I love this book and this author, but I will not close my eyes to bigotry even if it is reverse discrimination..... I can only hope that she raised her child above any gender war she so strongly feels a part of.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gail

    I've read most every book of Anne's now and without question I can say this one is my favorite. I started reading it at such an appropriate time, given that I myself was a first-time mom at home with a 5-week-old child. (and am typing this review one-handed with said child sleeping in my other arm). Which is why I fell in love with so many of Anne's hilarious recollections of being in the trenches of new motherhood. On her son's colic at the one month mark: "The exhaustion, the sleep deprivation, I've read most every book of Anne's now and without question I can say this one is my favorite. I started reading it at such an appropriate time, given that I myself was a first-time mom at home with a 5-week-old child. (and am typing this review one-handed with said child sleeping in my other arm). Which is why I fell in love with so many of Anne's hilarious recollections of being in the trenches of new motherhood. On her son's colic at the one month mark: "The exhaustion, the sleep deprivation, make me feel like I'm in the bamboo cage under cold water in The Deer Hunter. I don't mean to be dramatic, but this must be what it feels like to be a crack baby. It's a little like PMS on mild psychedelics." I laughed so much at her words and, based on what she shares of the joyful milestones of her son's first year, am buoyed by all the similar rewards to come in my own son's new life. This should be required reading for all new moms -- especially once that third week -- and the reality of how much your life has changed with this new person in it -- comes along. Loved this line in particular: “One thing about having a baby is that each step of the way you simply cannot imagine loving him any more than you already do, because you are bursting with love, loving as much as you are humanly capable of- and then you do, you love him even more.”

  19. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    Tremendously funny, warm, and full of hope. Anne Lamott’s winsome, honest approach to motherhood (especially as a single mother) is inspirational without being cheesy or cheap. She infuses a deep sense of grace, toward herself and others, and her spirit is a rare gift. Highly recommended to any parents or people pondering parenthood.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Aneesa

    It took me about a year to read this book. It is filled with so many familiar moments and milestones, described so accurately. She spends quite a bit of time crying over Bush (Sr.!) and mentions Donald Trump. History repeats itself so frequently. Also, it takes place in 1989 so as soon as I got excited about the World Series I got so worried about the earthquake.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Reese

    In Anne Lamott's OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS: A JOURNAL OF MY SON'S FIRST YEAR, you find phrases and sentences that give your false teeth some delicious, chewable morsels and poke a few neurons in your brain and jump-start the battery in your pacemaker. Reading it, however, did not make me miss my adult children's childhoods. It did prompt me to add the I-Should-Have-Kept-a-More-Detailed-Record-of-Those-Days folder to my Regrets file. Those days were, in many ways, magical; and I believe, as Lamott m In Anne Lamott's OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS: A JOURNAL OF MY SON'S FIRST YEAR, you find phrases and sentences that give your false teeth some delicious, chewable morsels and poke a few neurons in your brain and jump-start the battery in your pacemaker. Reading it, however, did not make me miss my adult children's childhoods. It did prompt me to add the I-Should-Have-Kept-a-More-Detailed-Record-of-Those-Days folder to my Regrets file. Those days were, in many ways, magical; and I believe, as Lamott mentions, that "there really are places in the heart you don't know exist until you love a child"(214). Yet when I think about those days, I don't find myself imitating Mary Hopkin singing "Those Were the Days" -- because, even without having kept a diary, I know that we didn't "sing and dance forever and a day" or "live the life we choose" or "fight and never lose." No, THOSE days were not those days -- for me or for Lamott. Okay, perhaps some were. If you're trying to decide whether or not Lamott's journal-book is for you, focus on the subtitle, not the title. Lamott's work is not the set of "operating instructions" that no new parent gets. (Competing theories and unsolicited advice voiced by the well-intentioned and the heavily-invested- in-the-outcomes are not operating instructions.) So forget "operating instructions"; think EKGs. Lamott allows us to read hers. And whether or not you are -- or have been -- a parent, you don't need any special training to recognize and attach meanings to most of the ascending and descending lines, subtle irregularities, rapid changes, OMGs, and periods of stability. Parent? Not a parent? What's in those squiggly lines on the tape or monitor -- well -- you'll know that they're not JUST about the baby.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Carin

    I picked this up at the used bookstore 2 days ago, having always heard about it. I'm not a parent and intend not to be one, but I read all sorts of memoirs about things I intend to not do, so I figured why not. And I'm thrilled I did, because I loved this book! It was a very fast read. And for once I don't only mean that I whipped through the pages very quickly (3 hours). I mean it was fast-paced and I felt like I had to speed-read to keep up. It was an interesting feeling, being whipped through I picked this up at the used bookstore 2 days ago, having always heard about it. I'm not a parent and intend not to be one, but I read all sorts of memoirs about things I intend to not do, so I figured why not. And I'm thrilled I did, because I loved this book! It was a very fast read. And for once I don't only mean that I whipped through the pages very quickly (3 hours). I mean it was fast-paced and I felt like I had to speed-read to keep up. It was an interesting feeling, being whipped through at the speed that I'm sure life felt like to Ms. Lamott. The pace of her pregnancy and her son's first year was echoed in the pace of her writing. She's alternatingly hilarious and sad. I laughed out loud every 20 pages or so. I was sad I was reading the book alone so I couldn't read bits of it out loud to someone. The trauma of dealing with unexpected and single parenthood makes her worry she's going to start drinking again (she's been sober for 3 years at this point). The naked honesty is refreshing, real, and relatable. Even someone like me who has only babysat understands the feeling of ricocheting between hatred and the purest love, when dealing with an infant. She worries about harming him, intentionally or unintentionally, she worries about his future, about money, about his lack of a father. But through it all, she has a ton of support, and her unerring sense of humor, and her faith. Throughout this book I was constantly thinking who can I pass this book on to? Because it's so fantastic, I want to share it with everyone. I thank Ms. Lamott for her openness and her truth.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    I thought this book was alright. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone but a new or about-to-be-new parent. I certainly don't think it's the best book Anne Lamott has ever written. I liked Bird by Bird and a couple of her novels a lot better than this. It's written as if it really were Lamott's journal, and maybe that's true. But I didn't like the structure because it jumped around between different subjects and moods too much. I only gave it two stars mostly because I was uncomfortable about the way I thought this book was alright. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone but a new or about-to-be-new parent. I certainly don't think it's the best book Anne Lamott has ever written. I liked Bird by Bird and a couple of her novels a lot better than this. It's written as if it really were Lamott's journal, and maybe that's true. But I didn't like the structure because it jumped around between different subjects and moods too much. I only gave it two stars mostly because I was uncomfortable about the way in which Lamott wrote about race. It's like she goes out of her way to point out how many people in her life aren't white when it's not critical to the narrative. It feels like she is pointing this out to prove that she's really open-minded or something. Then she describes a lot of the people who attend her African-American church as "really black" or "so black" or "very black" which is just terribly racist. It's never totally made clear, but the degree of blackness of her church friends does not seem to be in reference to their skin color (which would be problematic in a different way); rather, it seems to be the main way she describes their mannerisms or speech patterns. What am I, the reader, supposed to do with that information? Fill in the blanks with stereotypes? Ugh, not helpful! I think it's fine that she tells us who is black and who is not, but she could have come up with a lot more adjectives to describe her church friends' personalities than "really black." Her son Sam was born in 1989, but I don't think that the copyright date on this book is old enough to excuse the weird treatment of race.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Brooke romney

    What's great about this book? The writing, the writing, the writing. Her fabulous humor, her honest portrayal of the first year of being a mother, her honesty about her baby not having a father, her grief at her friend's diagnosis, the way she hysterically talks about Republicans, the support so many give her, and especially her true deep belief in a loving God (though it completely contrasts with who she is) and watching her faith ebb and flow. What is not so good? The language...too often, and What's great about this book? The writing, the writing, the writing. Her fabulous humor, her honest portrayal of the first year of being a mother, her honesty about her baby not having a father, her grief at her friend's diagnosis, the way she hysterically talks about Republicans, the support so many give her, and especially her true deep belief in a loving God (though it completely contrasts with who she is) and watching her faith ebb and flow. What is not so good? The language...too often, and so much of it that is actually took away from my enjoyment of the book. That she mostly talks about raising her son for the first year and while I enjoyed that, and felt a connection to her, I sort of felt like, been there, done that...it gets better and worse in lots of ways, life goes on. I would have liked it more if I had just had a baby or especially if I had just had my first. I guess so many other sides of her life sounded so interesting, I wanted more than just a baby journal. I was actually kind of glad to see her son's first birthday come. That being said, she's an AMAZING writer (funny, witty, honest, and genius) and I'd like to read other things she's written (anyone have suggestions?)If you just had your first baby, I think you'd adore this. Overall, about a 3.5.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tricia

    After stopping reading because I'd started when I first got pregnant and stopped when I had my first miscarriage (who needs someone exuding pure love and delight about their baby when you've just lost yours), I finally picked this up today almost two years later to decide about getting rid of it. My place was still marked, so I polished it off this afternoon. It was a good read, but is so very baby-centric that you should only read it if you are a new mother yourself, pregnant at a safe late sta After stopping reading because I'd started when I first got pregnant and stopped when I had my first miscarriage (who needs someone exuding pure love and delight about their baby when you've just lost yours), I finally picked this up today almost two years later to decide about getting rid of it. My place was still marked, so I polished it off this afternoon. It was a good read, but is so very baby-centric that you should only read it if you are a new mother yourself, pregnant at a safe late stage, or never want to be a parent (I doubt it will change your mind unless you want it changed, there is a lot of self-doubt and complaining about the baby stages while also glowing in blessings and love). Lamott was writing this journal only for herself, which shows, because she just blurts it all out, the good, the bad and the horrific. This is about her friendships as well as her own little miracle baby, her faith in god and her doubt in herself. Sad and happy, I laughed and cried variously. Look out for the journal entry that leads to probably her most famous book, Bird by Bird.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    My lust for books that are about motherhood has led me to "Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year" by Anne Lamott. This book chronicles the experience of Anne's first year as a new mother. A single mother. Anne wries boldly. Possibly because she did not intend to publish her personal journal. However, I am glad that she did. Her innermost thoughts are right there on the page. Thoughts that all new mothers have but none will admit to. Anne admits these thoughts. She deliciously My lust for books that are about motherhood has led me to "Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year" by Anne Lamott. This book chronicles the experience of Anne's first year as a new mother. A single mother. Anne wries boldly. Possibly because she did not intend to publish her personal journal. However, I am glad that she did. Her innermost thoughts are right there on the page. Thoughts that all new mothers have but none will admit to. Anne admits these thoughts. She deliciously describes how wonderful and painful motherhood can be. You want to cheer her on, call her to offer advice, and wallow in her self pity. Clearly a skillful writer, Anne manages to develop the characters from her personal life as well as a plot within her journal. Although I shudder at many of her conventional parenting decisions, I still really enjoyed sharing the experience with her. I don't recommend looking to this book for parenting advice but rather when you are in misery and looking for company and comfort as you struggle through your own parenting hurdles.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    I can see why some would consider this the original mommy blog. She fits the genre perfectly but was writing about 20 years before it really took off. Which means her writing is fresh, honest, witty, and at times, TMI. On a personal level... As a mother, I could really relate to her emotions as they ran the gamut from adoration to exhaustion. As a Christian, I could really relate to her dependance on Jesus and her faith to get through just about everything. As a personality, I could hardly relate I can see why some would consider this the original mommy blog. She fits the genre perfectly but was writing about 20 years before it really took off. Which means her writing is fresh, honest, witty, and at times, TMI. On a personal level... As a mother, I could really relate to her emotions as they ran the gamut from adoration to exhaustion. As a Christian, I could really relate to her dependance on Jesus and her faith to get through just about everything. As a personality, I could hardly relate to her at all. We come from such different backgrounds, live in such different environs, and have arrived at such different conclusions about some things, that it was like reading about a mother living in a foreign country - possibly even speaking a different language. All of which made it a very entertaining read, especially since I'm pregnant and love reading anything related to babies right now. I only withheld one star because I can't unabashedly recommend it to all audiences (due to some of the TMI and values espoused).

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Anne Lamott is such a lovely writer. How could you not help but love this book? Only she could turn the mundane parts of life with a baby into poetry. While it's been awhile since I've had a little baby around, I could relate so much to this book. Lamott really captures the emotions you get during that first year with a baby--the intense love, the boredom, the anxiety, the frustration, the fatigue, the infatuation, the excitement. I laughed, I reminisced, and I empathized the whole way through t Anne Lamott is such a lovely writer. How could you not help but love this book? Only she could turn the mundane parts of life with a baby into poetry. While it's been awhile since I've had a little baby around, I could relate so much to this book. Lamott really captures the emotions you get during that first year with a baby--the intense love, the boredom, the anxiety, the frustration, the fatigue, the infatuation, the excitement. I laughed, I reminisced, and I empathized the whole way through the book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

    This book pretty much saved my life twenty years ago, when I had a difficult baby. I love Anne Lamott and I definitely felt, if SHE can do it, so can I! :-)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    One of Lamott's early non-fiction books, and one of the best. One of Lamott's early non-fiction books, and one of the best.

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