Imperfect Birds

“Each has to enter the nest made by the other imperfect bird.”   Rumi

Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott is a fabulous book, one of those rare books that has you muttering “wow” to yourself once you finish it.   As soon as I read the novel’s first line, “There are so many evils that pull on our children,” I knew that I was in for a good read.   In Imperfect Birds, Lamott is telling the story of what can happen to a teenage daughter.   Having my own teenage (step) daughter, I’m constantly worried about her well-being, wondering what out there in her world is tempting her, despite the fact that she’s a good normal girl, and a scholar-athlete with a fantastic GPA.

Elizabeth Ferguson is raising her seventeen-year-old daughter Rose in a supposedly safe community in northern California, along with her second husband James.   Elizabeth is a worrier, and not without reason.   Kids die in her town from drinking and using drugs.   Her daughter has admitted to having sex, and to smoking pot, trying cocaine and drinking.   Most of this Elizabeth secretly reads in Rosie’s journals.   Elizabeth is a recovering alcoholic, suffers from mental illness, and lost her first husband many years before.

Elizabeth works and her husband James writes at home, and they’re loving parents who have very frank and honest conversations with Rosie.   Despite this, Rosie is hiding a secret.   During Rosie’s senior year she goes into a gradual slide – lying, having unprotected sex, and abusing drugs.   Yet she doesn’t think she has a problem.

Elizabeth and James struggle with Rosie as she becomes less trust-worthy and open.   Rosie is every typical teenager; she doesn’t want to hear her parents’ warnings.   She is in fact a wonderful girl – funny, bright and loving.   Yet Rosie has become a master manipulator.   While reading this novel you can actually feel the tension between Rosie and her parents.   Ms. Lamott does an excellent job reminding the reader of how hard the process of raising a daughter can be.

Imperfect Birds is a sequel to two of Anne Lamott’s prior novels, Rosie (1997) and Crooked Little Heart (1998).   Lamott does an excellent job of tapping into the teen drug culture that scares parents.   Rosie, Elizabeth and James are a family in crisis, like many other American families today.

You don’t need to be a parent or step-parent to read this book, because it appeals on so many levels.   It is a wonderful, wonderful book…   Read it, if only to feel that “ah, you too” moment.

This review was written by Ghetto Girl and used with her kind permission.   You can read more of her reviews at: .




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3 responses to “Imperfect Birds

  1. Hector Holguin

    the reviewer makes this sound like a book I simply must read..I plan to now!

  2. How did I not know this was out? Thanks for the heads up!

  3. Fabulously candid inner values and slices-of-life from one of our most honest and acerbically funny writers. Lamott’s characters are wrestling with the real world issues of the current times and generation and the speed of change in our culture… difficult, heady stuff.

    The first third of the book is waaaay too slow; I would have abandoned many other writers and not gotten to the meat, so beautifully presented in the later two-thirds. And that’s the last criticism I can find about this otherwise enchantingly lovely picture of our impossibly difficult society.

    Not enough is being said in other reviews about the way Ms. Lamott explores the co-dependency between Elizabeth, the mother, and Rosie, the daughter. The complex struggle to gain authenticity risks the loss of the most important of our values, our parent or our child. The weight and reality of the risk is there for us to experience with the characters; it’s open, it pulses, and it’s truly frightening. It is also the only possibility; the risk must be taken.

    Martin Cruz Smith is right: “Tough and wonderful. It’s a heart breaker and a heart mender.”

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