Joe Jones is Lamott's third novel, first coming out in 1985 and recently being republished. Lamott concedes in an interview with Powell's.com the Portland book seller that "it was just a mess in a lot of ways." It was written in the last few years of her drinking (she became sober in 1986)and she expected a natural progression in quality from her first two novels, but it was critically trashed, and people pretended that it didn't exist.
Joe Jones is set in a run down diner in the San Francisco Bay area, populated by a weird group of people, including Jessica, the 80-year-old owner; Willie, her gay grandson who is the waiter, dish washer and pastry cook; Louise, a waitress who appears to be the Anne Lamott character, and Joe Jones, Louise's faithless ex-boyfriend about whom she cannot stop obsessing. Louise, like Lamott, is a foul-mouthed fervent Christian, who doesn't let her Christianity get in the way of her compassion for life's losers. People die and leave in the novel, but it is not a depressing novel; Lamott uses her humor to keep the tone hopeful and light.
When I started reading the book, I was so taken with some of the writing that I started taking down quotes before I finally realized that I'm just going to wind up copying down the whole book. Some of my favorites, before I gave up jotting them down follow: (In reflecting on her relationship with Joe Jones, whom she has thrown out after yet another infidelity,) Louise says,
Really, she thinks to herself, you ought to be in love with someone you wouldn't mind being.
On Willie's grandmother's reaction upon learning that Willie is gay:
After a moment with deeply concerned indignation, she said, "I thought he just had good posture."
Christians who are easily offended should not read this book. Christians and non-Christians who need a strong plot to enjoy fiction should not read this book. People with and without faith who enjoy reading good writing just for the sake of how the words are put together will love this book. I gave it three stars.