Cuyahoga River

Cuyahoga River
Cuyahoga River in the Valley

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Blue Shoe

Anne Lamott’s Blue Shoe was so much fun to listen to on tape because it was clearly written and well read. I’m a huge Anne Lamott fan, and it was really cool that we watched the documentary about her when we were in Lakeside last weekend. Her story of dealing with single motherhood and alcoholism is one of finding strength within and becoming a good and peaceful person. That’s what Mattie Ryder’s story is about too. Mattie is the newly-divorced mother of two living in her mother’s home with lots of unanswered questions about her life—in fact, it’s not too much different than my own Daffodils and Fireflies, there’s so many questions. It’s a “quiet” book, the kind I’m drawn to, like Sarah Willis’ novels. A new guy in her life doesn’t cause her to go crazy with passion—she’s too reluctant to go there.

As in my novel, clues emerge, in the form of a blue shoe and a key from a paint can. Now she knows why her aging mother is so crazy and why her father was so mysterious. What Mattie needs is honesty and intimacy, which she’s always lacked, and she finds that when she falls in love with Daniel. The blue shoe resides with each person in the story at different times. It was like the piece of bread social workers gave to orphans: “piece of bread was just to hold on to, to reassure the children through the night that they were safe now, that there would be bread to eat in the morning."

Mattie’s mother was good to everyone else but her own children, most likely because of her husband’s philandering, which made affection difficult. This was the direct result of knowing her husband loved another woman. Mattie does sort of the same thing, sleeping with her ex-husband Nicky even after he married someone else—this seemed to come from a need for love, not from a desire to get together with him, and her disgust for herself was the first step in the right direction. The reason she and Daniel fall in love is because of her honesty with him, and he falls away from his own wife because of a lack of intimacy. It was surprising to me that Mattie took pride in winning Daniel away from Pauline, sort of like she did better than her mother in winning her man and it somehow vindicated her father’s lying to them. Mattie’s faith is tested, but not so much the “religious” part, but her own God connection. By the end of the book, she’s at peace with who she is and the decisions she’s made, and has made her God connection.

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