Read This: Rosie by Anne Lamott

Friday, August 21, 2015

Sometimes, I read a book that makes me want to read the author's complete work. I've done this with Emily Giffin, I want to do that with John Steinbeck, and now, because of this book, I want to do that with Anne Lamott.

Rosie by Anne Lamott

I had read Bird by Bird, Lamott's book full of enriching writing (and life) advice (review here), so I wanted to give her fiction a try. I was not disappointed.

I found the lead character of Rosie—Elizabeth Ferguson—so unlike me on the surface (extremely introverted, struggling alcoholic, hates trying new things), but so captivating and relatable. Lamott beautifully develops Elizabeth...starting with the bold opening line, "There were many things about Elizabeth Ferguson that the people of Bayview disliked."

In the world of writing, it's enticing to create an incredibly likable lead. Certainly, your protagonist needs to be relatable/sympathetic, but it's tempting (for me) to create a character who's everyone's BFF. A happy, easy, friendly lead who everyone wants to hang out with. This is fine, but not all too realistic. In real life, people are flawed. Lamott manages to tell a compelling story through the eyes of a character full of vices and struggle, but still one you enjoy rooting for.

Elizabeth is an orphan, ever fearful of turning into her alcoholic mother. Through being a single parent of her daughter, Rosie, she confronts her fears. Rosie is a passionate, independent little girl, who really adds life to the story.

A warning: there is some disturbing content in this book. If it was made into a movie, it'd be rated R, and not just for the liberal use of the f-bomb.

Still, though a couple scenes were haunting, I enjoyed the realness and the grittiness of this book. All of its characters (even the minor ones) were complex. And how wonderful is that?

As Stephen King says, in his book On Writing:

"It's also important to remember that no one is "the bad guy" or "the best friend" or "the whore with a heart of gold" in real life; in real life we each of us regard ourselves as the main character, the protagonist, the big cheese...If you can bring this attitude into your fiction, you may not find it easier to create brilliant characters, but it will be harder for you to create the sort of one-dimensional dopes that populate so much pop fiction."

All throughout Rosie, there isn't a single one-dimensional dope. And many of Lamott's characters are downright brilliant.

Have you read any Anne Lamott books? Any authors you swear by? I'd love to hear!

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