Traveling Mercies was a perfect little book of essays, vintage Lamott: earthy, frank, and faith-based. One doesn’t fall so easily for her new novel, about a single mother and her messed-up brood. All the overripe descriptions of the sun and the wind and the Lord too often get in the way. ”April was fragrant and full of whirling blossoms, and the clouds, though dark, were shot through with light…God the great scribble artist in the sky.” Still, her characters are worth getting to know: Mattie, sick from divorce, and her two babies; her mother, Isa, proud in the face of physical decline. And who wouldn’t want a friend like Angela, who swirls into town, bringing calm with her.