On her 49th birthday, feeling down about the Bush administration, Anne Lamott turned to prayer for comfort. "I closed my eyes and got quiet," writes the liberal Democrat and Presbyterian, now 50. "I tried to look like Mother Mary, with dreadlocks and a bad back."
As readers of 1999's autobiographical Traveling Mercies know, Lamott, a single mom, former drug abuser and born-again Christian, takes an irreverent approach to religion. In Plan B, her follow-up to Mercies, she explores the ways in which faith and morality matter in today's tumultuous world, while again sorting through her own doubts and everyday anxieties. Her topics—raising her teenage son Sam, Bush's second term, aging—unfold as easily as a coffee-time chat, with references ranging from the indie hit Whale Rider to Christian writer C.S. Lewis to wrestler Hulk Hogan (whose hammer hold technique is part of her son's fighting repertoire). Beyond her bold humor, however, lies a compelling quest to recognize the spiritual challenges that surround us and to answer the gambit implied by the book's title: If your personal Plan A fails (hers appears to have been voting Bush out of office), what's next? As Lamott puts it, "Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort and letting it be there until some light returns."