Raw and sensual, Anne Lamott’s Imperfect Birds is almost a novel-length poem. With language so descriptive of sound, texture, and scent, the listener is transported to the Northern California town where Elizabeth and James are struggling to raise their teenage daughter Rosie.
Susan Denaker’s narration balances a “hippie” vibe with typical baby boomer nostalgia for the traditional, sensible world they rebelled against. Her voice shifts from cool, impartial observation to embody the “cluttered and numb” Elizabeth; the bemused, solid James; and Rosie in all her high school drama and indignation.
Through words and sound, Lamott and Denaker knit together a family of characters who are aching through their everyday world, looking around every corner for some major catastrophe to relieve them at least of the tension among them. The slow-moving catastrophe of the novel is Rosie’s drug use and Elizabeth’s inability to take control of the situation.
This central conflict seeps into all the other relationships in the novel, putting stress on Elizabeth and James’ marriage and leading Rosie down a dangerous path with a guy from school. There are moments when Elizabeth and Rosie connect, but daughter is trying so hard to break free from mother, that deception and hurtfulness become routine.
At the beginning of the novel, Elizabeth’s friend Rae tells her, “You stop pretending life is such fun or makes sense. It’s often messy and cruel and dull, and we do the best we can. It’s unfair, and jerks seem to win. But you fall in love with a few people.” Imperfect Birds is the story of how one family holds onto that love through depression, addiction, and the sometimes painful experience of simply growing up. Sarah Evans Hogeboom
A powerful and redemptive novel of love and family, from the author of the best-selling Blue Shoe, Grace (Eventually), and Operating Instructions.
Rosie Ferguson is 17 and ready to enjoy the summer before her senior year of high school. She's intelligent (she aced AP physics), athletic (a former state-ranked tennis doubles champion), and beautiful. She is, in short, everything her mother, Elizabeth, hoped she could be. The family's move to Landsdale, with stepfather James in tow, hadn't been as bumpy as Elizabeth feared.
But as the school year draws to a close, there are disturbing signs that the life Rosie claims to be leading is a sham, and that Elizabeth's hopes for her daughter to remain immune from the pull of the darker impulses of drugs and alcohol are dashed. Slowly and against their will, Elizabeth and James are forced to confront the fact that Rosie has been lying to them - and that her deceptions will have profound consequences.
This is Anne Lamott's most honest and heartrending novel yet, exploring our human quest for connection and salvation as it reveals the traps that can befall all of us.
©2010 Anne Lamott (P)2010 Penguin
If they had had 3.5 stars I would have given the book that rating.
Imperfect birds came along right at the same time I was dealing with the same issue w/ my 26 year-old step-daughter so I was very well able to relate to it.
At the beginning of the book I felt lost. The story didn't seem to move forward - just focus on past events every two minutes. I literally felt like the book took one step forward, 2 steps back for the first couple of chapters. Additionally, and maybe I'm naive, but they already knew some of the drugs she was taking and the promiscuity and excused it! At the beginning I thought, "Well what is the story about - they already know exactly what she's doing." But it does actually get worse.
When the story did finally start moving, I found that James is the only character I liked. The girl's sense of entitlement infuriated me as did the mother's total denial of the situation. As the pattern of behavior I've experienced is the same, it is probably true to life.
It is an interesting book and a scary commentary on parents and teens today. Although I felt like it dragged in places, overall, i enjoyed it.
The only reason I finished this "read" is that I had spent credits for it. The story drags on with too much detail and then ends abruptly.
I was three hours into it and it was going no where so just had to stop! Weird mother daughter relationship and I just could not see it going any where interesting..
I gaveit on star because I couldn't figure out how to give it -5!!!! This is probably the worst book I have read in 20 years. The writing is shallow and the topic of contemporary teenage issues was apparently very poorly researched thus presented in the story. Seems like the writer just wanted to write for shock value. The book is a waste of time, money, and effort.
The story was all too predictable. Not sure what the message was besides don't believe everything your child tells you.
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