Reviewed by Krista Castner

Some Assembly Required, by Anne Lamott and her son Sam Lamott, chronicles how their family changed when Sam learns he is to become a father at the age of nineteen. Anne was 36 when she became a single mother to Sam. Her account of that time in her life is told in her memoir, Operating Instructions. Some Assembly Required is a sequel to that and explores how the arrival of a grandchild changes the family dynamics. It’s told mainly from Anne’s experience as a first-time grandmother with some of Sam’s observation’s of his experiences as a first-time father sprinkled throughout.

At the “ripe age of fifty-five, with a child just one year past his majority,” Anne Lamott became a grandmother when Sam’s girlfriend, Amy Tobias, gave birth to a son on July 20, 2009. They named him Jax Jesse Lamott. Amy was twenty when she delivered and Sam was nineteen.

I was prepared to be delighted by this book as I’m a fan of Anne Lamott. My niece who recently turned 20 gave birth to Elijah Trent on March 16, 2012. I was hoping to find some nuggets of wisdom about how to welcome this newest little guy to our family. What I found though was a stunningly self-absorbed author who is a giant control freak. To make matters worse, when she’s not controlling she wants to be congratulated for her ability to conquer her urge to control. It often seemed that Anne forgot that she’s the grandmother, not the mother again.

The story about Jax’s birth and his first year was definitely told through Anne’s experiences. There was more ‘God talk’ than I’d expected in the book. I know that Anne has written books on faith. I didn’t expect this book to be so heavily laden with that aspect. In the middle of the book Anne takes a trip to India. Her account of her frenetic time there seemed disjointed when plopped down in a book about her grandson’s first year. For me, those chapters didn’t work.

Some of her descriptions of Jax maturing from a newborn to a one-year old are really poignant. She has such a wonderful ability to describe things in a new way. There is magic in going through the experience of seeing a newborn enter the world and watching him change and grow. Anne shows those things in ways that made me stop and re-read several passages. But other passages just made me want to reach through the book and tell her, “Get over yourself”. Originally I thought I’d pass this book on to my niece. But sadly, I don’t think it would be all that interesting, or helpful to her. Instead, this book will be donated to my library’s bookstore.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Krista lives just outside the urban sprawl of Portland, Oregon. Lamentably, her work as a technical writer and business analyst often interferes with her reading which is a true passion.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Riverhead. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.