Mattie, recently divorced from Nick, the father of her two children, is coping with the aftermath of divorce, functioning as a single parent, feeling ambivalence toward Nick who still shows up and sometimes stays the night, and becoming aware of her own attraction to other men. Her mother, an aging social activist, lives nearby with her lover and companion who copes with the mother’s insistent personality and mood swings better than Mattie. Her brother, Al, also lives nearby and fills in some of the father functions for Mattie’s children.

In the background is the story of Mattie’s father, now dead, much loved by both Mattie and Al, who, as it turns out, fathered a child now living in the community by a young girl about Mattie’s age. The mother of the child lives in the squalor of near homelessness at the edge of town. This disclosure, Mattie’s blossoming friendship and eventual romance with the man who comes to repair her house, and Mattie’s mother’s descent into dementia are the three main threads of plot in this story of pain, forgiveness, and healing in family life.


Characteristically, Lamott takes on hard issues in this book about the messiness and brokenness of many adult lives and treats them with compassion, wit, and frankness. Mattie’s love for her children, her realism about her own limits, her fidelity to a relationship with a mother she’s never found easy, and her unorthodox but heartfelt faith see her through. Throughout, the sense of the comic prevails; faith, hope, love, forgiveness, insight, and patience come as gifts in the midst of family tensions that try every one of those virtues.

Definitely a novel for adults--helpful for adults dealing with divorce, aging parents, dementia, decisions about institutionalization, losses, and single parenting. Unsentimental and bold in its truthtelling about hard things, the novel finally does offer a message of possibility and choice after loss and disillusionment.



Place Published

New York



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