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'Help, Thanks, Wow' by Anne Lamott

Book Club Discussion Questions

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Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott

Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott

Riverhead
Help, Thanks, Wow is a book by Anne Lamott about "the three essential prayers." Though the book is short and divided into sections, Lamott's style, which is more rambling than precise, can make it hard to know how to start discussing the book. These book club questions can be used by an individual or group to think more deeply about Help, Thanks, Wow.

  1. Did you find this book helpful in thinking about prayer? Why or why not?
  2. Do you agree that "Help" is the first essential prayer? What is wrapped up in that word/prayer?
  3. Lamott writes,"But grace can be the experience of a second wind, when even though what you want is clarity and resolution, what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on" (47). Describe a time when you have experienced this kind of grace.
  4. Lamott writes, "My priest friend Bill Rankin said that through prayer, we take ourselves off the hook and put God on the hook, where God belongs" (39). What do you think this means? Lamott continues in this paragraph to describe "Jesus, on the literal hook of the cross" (39). Did this image change what you thought about "God on the hook?" Is it a helpful way of thinking about Jesus?
  5. Lamott writes, "Saying and meaning 'Thanks' leads to a crazy thought: What more can I give?" (62). Do you think this is true? Why?
  6. Lamott writes,"The third great prayer, Wow, is often offered with a gasp, a sharp intake of breath, when we can't think of another way to capture the sight of shocking beauty or destruction, of a sudden unbidden insight or an unexpected flash of grace" (71). Discuss some of your "Wow" experiences. Did they drive you to prayer or a greater acceptance of God?
  7. Lamott claims, "Sin is not the adult bookstore on the corner. It is the hard heart, the lack of generosity, and all the isms, racism and sexism and so forth" (62). Do you agree with her? Could it be both? What is the best way to understand "sin?"
  8. Did you have a favorite passage or description? One of mine was when Lamott describes autumn: "And autumn ain't so shabby for Wow, either. The colors are broccoli and flame and fox fur. The tang is apples, death, and wood smoke. The rot smells faintly of grapes, of fermentation, of one element being changed alchemically into another, and the air is moist and you sleep under two down comforters in a cold room. The trails are not dusty anymore, and you get to wear your favorite sweaters" (80).

    Discuss this or one of your favorite passages and why you think the writing is good or insightful.

  9. Do you think that "Help," "Thanks," and "Wow" capture all that needs to be expressed in prayer? Why or why not?
  10. Would you add any "essential prayers?"
  11. If you have read other books by Lamott, such as Some Assembly Required, how did you think this one compared?
  12. Rate Help, Thanks, Wow on a scale of 1 to 5.
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