Anne Lamott’s latest book tackles finding peace after suffering

Days before Anne Lamott was scheduled to teach Sunday school class, a disturbed gunman blasted his way through a Connecticut elementary school, killing 20 children and six adults.

Lamott wanted to help her students — and herself — find a way through the anguish.

They made angels from coffee filters and she read from Luke.

“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom…”

It was, perhaps, a small start to mending.

“It didn’t make Newtown go away. It didn’t change the truth of Newtown, but it added joy and it added sweetness back to a very, very difficult patch of time,” she said.

The bestselling author of “Help, Thanks, Wow” and “Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith ” tackles the tough topic of healing in the midst of chaos in her new book, “Stitches: A Handbook of Meaning, H0pe and Repair.”

The Newtown murders had a profound impact on her.

“Newtown felt like the end of the world,” she said. “Newtown felt like it was over. If you can’t send kindergartners and first-graders to school safely now, then we’re in serious trouble. We need to talk. I think even for those who support gun rights , it was beyond all imagining It went beyond a political issue.”

Lamott will discuss and sign copies of her new book at 7 p.m. Monday at Georgia at First Baptist Church Decatur, 308 Clairmont Ave., as part of the Center for the Book program.

Lamott started sending stories to her editor at Riverhead Books that she hoped would be healing and hope-giving.

She started writing the day after Newtown.

As for the title, “I kept coming upon the image of stitching and darning and knitting,” said Lamott, 59, during a phone interview from California as she zipped to the airport to fly to another stop on her book tour. “It was shorthand for the image that kept coming to me.”

Often its the community that surrounds a person that gets them through the rough patches and tragedies, she said. “We feel so alone and isolated. The miracle tends to be in the response of people who see it on TV or on Facebook or here from the phone that we are really needful of quiet, loving companionship.”

Lamott’s work is often autobiographical. She touches on devastation in families and individuals, community, prayer, spirituality. She’s made no secret that she once struggled with substance abuse. Being clean sober, she said, “definitely made a huge improvement in my work.”

In “Stitches,” she writes about the loss of a close friend and wearing one of her friend’s favorite shirts until it was in tatters. She includes a story about a group of teens who inadvertently start a fire that destroys scores of homes. Their families considered leaving the area, but the town folks — in a forgiving spirit — urge them to stay.

It’s all about mending. Stitches of fabric being sewn together. Healing.

Lamott find her peace with family and close friends. She attends a tiny church of 30 people — “a radiantly spiritual place” — across from the Golden Gate Bridge. She hikes and loves to read.

What’s next?

Lamott confesses she really doesn’t have a clue. She finds book tours so exhausting that she plans to take some time off to become centered.

Then, “I’ll see what comes to me,” she said.

She was recently on Oprah. Could Oprah recruit her for a spot on her network? “God, no. I don’t want a show,” moans Lamott. “I got the hour, and I think maybe that’s enough. My interest is in becoming less public. I’m not seeking further acclaim. I’ll pulling back in. I have a very sweet and very plain life.”