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

by Anne Lamott


I am not a baby person, so it kind of surprised me that I wanted to read this book.

I had read Bird by Bird, Lamott’s book on writing, a year or so ago and liked it, so when I spotted this book for $1.50 I decided to give it a go. Turns out, Lamott wasn’t really a baby person either, until she found herself in a state of impending motherhood.

The book is laid out like a diary, with entries organized by date, with the last one being on her son Sam’s first birthday. She writes about what I have always secretly suspected goes on in the mind of a new mother: fear she is doing it wrong, craziness caused by sleep deprivation, loneliness, depression, bouts of weird maniacal humor, irrational fears, and utter delight in the tiny, impossible things her baby does.

There are also lots of good things in this book about recovery, hope, and being surprised by faith. It isn’t a sickeningly sweet book, not all gooey with love for the perfect baby. It is about real life with an infant, and as it turns out later, with a best friend with cancer.

From the book:

Simone [Weil] said something to her mother like “I love you, and if I had two lives, I would give you one. But I don’t.” The awful thing is that Sam will probably get hold of this line someday, too.

Pammy said the other day that the thing happening in her body is so bizarre, so unthinkable, that trying to accept it is like being eight years old again with someone explaining to her that the light from the star she is staring at took twenty years to reach her. All she can do is stand there staring at the star with a kind of fearful wonder, waiting for the information to make sense.

A quick read. Some entries blur together, but others have buried treasures in them. Recommended.

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