author and narrator of the book. A former drug addict and alcoholic,
Lamott has become an author, teacher, mother, and devout Christian.
She is heavily influenced by her author father’s bohemian lifestyle. She
believes that writing can help create community and lead to personal
satisfaction. She also believes that writers are an integral part
of society and must have a moral perspective
in-depth analysis of Anne Lamott.
- Anne Lamott’s father. Mr. Lamott’s career as a writer
inspires Anne Lamott to write; his illness inspires her first book.
When he develops brain cancer, Anne Lamott begins to write her first
successful manuscript. He dies a year before the book is published.
author’s son. Sam is three at the time Bird by Bird
written. Precocious and intelligent, he often speaks his mind, and
his words inspire his mother. Lamott frequently mentions him.
in-depth analysis of Sam.
- Lamott’s father’s agent. McKee is unimpressed by Lamott’s
early work but ultimately she champions Lamott’s first novel.
best friend. Lamott describes Pam’s struggle with breast cancer.
Because Pam faces death, she can sift through the monotony of daily
life and find the basic essence of experience. Lamott uses her writing
to memorialize Pam, whose cancer eventually kills her.
in-depth analysis of Pam.
daughter. Because of Rebecca, Pam is particularly distressed about
her impending death. Rebecca is also Sam’s friend, and the two often
unnamed New York editor who initially turns down a draft of Lamott’s
book. When Lamott finally gives him an oral explanation of the plot
she has in mind, he suggests that she work from that summary instead
of from the original draft.
fellow author who is close to Lamott. Their books are published
on the same date, and they provide support for each other. Like
Lamott, Carpenter can be cynical about life, but he believes that
the most important part of life is establishing connections with those
friend of Lamott’s. Terry thinks it is more important to act than
to be frozen with fear about the potential consequences of an action.
The Successful Writer Friend
- A fellow writer whose success and insensitivity regarding
money annoy Lamott and make her jealous. Eventually, Lamott comes
to terms with her own feelings and tells the friend that she must
sever ties with her.
relative who features in one of Lamott’s childhood memories. Lamott
recalls how her aunt, who was going through a painful divorce, tried
out a lemonade machine. Her efforts were unsuccessful, but the children
sensed her distress and drank the lemonade anyway.
The Bad-Writing Student
- A writing student who attempts an experimental writing
piece in Lamott’s class. Another student brutally criticizes the
experimental piece. The student is hurt by the criticism but does
The Critical Writing Student
- The student who cruelly criticizes the bad-writing
student’s piece. A good writer, she believes the experimental piece
has no redeeming value and wants to know why everyone is pretending
otherwise. She is praised for her honesty, although Lamott notes that
she didn’t have to be so harsh.
The Depressed Writer from the Writer’s
- A former writing student who
tells Lamott she is worried that the other members of her group
are laughing at her and meeting behind her back. She finds motivation
to write when a truly depressed member of the writing group calls
her about his problems.
- A former
alcoholic and gay Jesuit priest. Tom often talks with Lamott about
the feeling of liberation he felt when he stopped drinking. Lamott
often turns to him for advice and inspiration.
pastor of Lamott’s church. He counsels Lamott when she becomes too
addicted to the publishing process. He tells her that serenity can
only come from within, and that while the world cannot provide it,
the world also cannot take it away.