IMPERFECT BIRDS by Anne Lamont
“There are so many evils that pull on our children.”
Review by Bonnie Brody (APR 15, 2010)
If you are at all familiar with any of Anne Lamott’s books, Imperfect Birds will have a very familiar ring to it. It tackles the themes of addiction, spirituality, 12- step programs and enabling.
The novel is about Rosie, ¬†now a 17 year-old adolescent who has her parents wrapped¬†around her fingers. She is heavily into drugs and alcohol but is lying to her parents about the extent of her substance use, cheating on her urinalyses. She is¬†a great manipulator and excellent with triangulation. Her mother, Elizabeth, and her step-father James, are at their wit’s ends. Rosie’s father, Andrew, died when she was a young child.
Elizabeth is a recovering alcoholic who has two years clean time. She has a feeling¬†of emptiness and has never felt whole since Andrew died. Her rocky relationship¬†with Rosie makes her feel fragile and distrustful of her own gut feelings. James is¬†very grounded and tries to get Elizabeth to be more secure in her boundaries with¬†Rosie and to trust her instincts, not to any great avail.
Rosie has two best friends, Alice and Jodie. As the book opens, Jodie has just¬†completed three months at a rehab facility. They are all three using drugs and¬†sometimes trading sex for drugs. They don’t use condoms and seem unaware of the dangers of unsafe sex.
Elizabeth doesn’t work outside the home. She and the family live in the vicinity¬†of Marin County. James has a weekly show on National Public Radio and has published one novel. Up to this time, Elizabeth has considered herself his muse and now feels lost, her place in the family insecure. Marital stress is at an all time high due to Rosie’s lying, splitting and manipulation. Elizabeth, especially, is very enabling¬†of Rosie’s behaviors.
The book discusses a lot about recovery and there is a lot of spirituality-centered¬†talk in it as well. Elizabeth’s best friends are ministers and they are the ones that Rosie is referred to for counseling. Elizabeth, James, and their friends all used to drink together years ago and are all in recovery. Elizabeth is active in Alcoholics Anonymous. Additionally, she suffers from depression and is on medication for her psychiatric issues.
Rosie tests Jame’s and Elizabeth’s limits to the max. She breaks curfew, sneaks out of the house in the middle of the night, asks Elizabeth to withhold information from James, and generally lies, steals, and is rude, disrespectful and snide to both¬†Elizabeth and James. She is a bright girl who is a whiz at physics who also reads¬†Robertson Davies and Maria Rilke. Despite her intelligence, she has little or no¬†insight about the extent of her substance problems.
The author does an excellent job of showing the strain and difficulties posed by a drug abusing adolescent. There is too much about spirituality for my taste, but this is to be expected in a book written by Lamott.
The novel very excellently shows the grip of addiction, the pain that it causes loved ones and the strains it puts on marital and family relationships. Lamott is the perfect writer to tackle a topic like this, a topic that is harrowing, frightening and life-threatening. This is a good book, one that every parent will benefit from.
* Editor’s note: ¬†Rosie is the same character that appears in Rosie (1983) at age 5 and then in Crooked Little Heart (1997) at age 13.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 17 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||Riverhead Hardcover (April 6, 2010)|
|AMAZON PAGE:||Imperfect Birds|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||Anne Lamont Fan Page|
|EXTRAS:||Reading Guide and Excerpt|
|MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION:||Made me think of this book:
Blame by Michele Huneven
- Hard Laughter (1980)
- Rosie (1983)
- Joe Jones (1985)
- All New People (1989)
- Crooked Little Heart (1997)
- Blue Shoe (2002)
- Imperfect Birds (April 2010)
- Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year (1993)
- Bird by Bird : Some Instructions on Writing and Life (1994)
- Traveling Mercies : Some Thoughts on Faith (1999)
- Plan B : Further Thoughts on Faith (2005)
- Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith (2007)