Book Review: Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year by Anne Lamott

By on Nov 7, 2017 in Book Reviews | 0 comments

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Better for a mother-to-be

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

Author: Anne Lamott

Publisher: Anchor 2005

ISBN: 1400079098 (ISBN13: 9781400079094)

Rating: 3/5


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.”


Operating Instructions is a memoir of Anne Lamott’s first year as a single mother. Over the course of twelve months she records her feelings and the activities of her new born son and her posse of friends and supporters. The book follows a traditional diary approach with the entries ordered chronologically.


I really wanted to enjoy this book because I had enjoyed her memoir on writing (Bird by Bird) so much but the book left me a little disappointed. I think I would have enjoyed the book much more if I were a mother-to-be or a new mother.


I had odd flash of “oh I remember that happening”, through the book but, perhaps because my children are older, I didn’t really find myself connecting with her parenting journey. I know that, as a mother, I find my children endlessly interesting but unfortunately my interest didn’t extend to Sam, the baby in the book. During the course of the year, Anne’s best friend, Pammy, is diagnosed with cancer and I found myself more interested in that story than the slightly pedestrian gushing of a new mother.

Whilst I can’t say I found the story especially interesting I was, again, struck by the author’s ability to be vulnerable and record her feelings even when they weren’t especially worthy.

I’d recommend this book for people planning a family or who have infant children but not for parents of older children or for people without children.

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