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Imperfect Birds: A Novel Paperback – April 5, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Trade; Reprint edition (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594485046
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594485046
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #323,038 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Bookmarks Magazine

Like her nonfiction, Imperfect Birds reflects Lamott's philosophy on God and faith; it also showcases Lamott's exquisite writing, wry wit, wonderful dialogue, and believable characters. However, critics diverged on a number of points. While some praised the narrative arc, others thought that nothing much happened, "just a trudging advance across flat terrain" that marks a typical family crisis (Boston Globe). More seriously, despite familiarity with Lamott's philosophies and left-leaning politics, a few reviewers had difficulty sympathizing with bored, upper middle-class youth in the San Francisco Bay Area. While Imperfect Birds will certainly resound with parents, other readers may wish to go back two decades and start with Rosie. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

It is sobering to think that Rosie Ferguson is your typical teenage girl. On one hand, she’s in the throes of her senior year in high school: concerned with body image and boyfriends, BFFs and boredom, and, of course, the daily trauma of living with parents who are so hopelessly, well, hopeless. On the other hand, she is an adept addict who’s never met a substance she wouldn’t abuse or a male she wouldn’t seduce. Juggling these two worlds demands bigger and more frequent scores, and more facile lies, while Rosie’s parents, recovering alcoholic Elizabeth and workaholic stepfather James, are reluctant to enforce even the lamest disciplinary rules for fear of losing Rosie’s love—until one night when her world comes crashing down, and Elizabeth and James have no choice but to send Rosie to a wilderness rehab program. Reprising characters from her previous novels, Rosie (1997) and Crooked Little Heart (1998), Lamott intuitively taps into the teenage drug culture to create a vivid, unsettling portrait of a family in crisis. As she eschews the cunning one-liners and wry observations that had become her signature stock-in-trade, Lamott produces her most stylistically mature and thematically circumspect novel to date. --Carol Haggas --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Anne Lamott is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Grace (Eventually), Plan B, Traveling Mercies, and Operating Instructions, as well as seven novels, including Rosie and Crooked Little Heart. She is a past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Customer Reviews

Lamott didn't make me feel invested in her character.
Bluestalking Reader
I know many people wanted to like this one (and I tried REALLY hard to) but it isn't good writing.
magic77
Not much happened in the first 200 pages outside of what you read on the back cover of the book.
Crestviewer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

125 of 141 people found the following review helpful By Bluestalking Reader VINE VOICE on March 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I love Anne Lamott's nonfiction works. During one particularly difficult year of my life I listened to her entire canon of nonfiction on CD. That, and a particularly dedicated therapist, helped pull me through the year safely. But her fiction? Not so much.

Teenaged Rosie is at the heart of 'Imperfect Birds.' A good student, off and on good daughter, and generally honest kid, in the summer between her junior and senior years in high school she starts falling in with the wrong crowd. From the relative "innocence" of experimenting with marijuana, alcohol and a few harder drugs, Rosie suddenly begins to spiral out of control. In her favor, she has two parents (including a step-father, as Rosie's biological father died), and a whole support system of people who love her.

Something about Lamott's fiction lacks the spark of herself, a certain impish quality, that seems to flow so freely in her nonfiction. I didn't care about Rosie. Lamott didn't make me feel invested in her character. By the 3/4 mark I was bored, just waiting for it to end. And when it did I breathed a sigh of relief.

I found the book so disappointing, so blah in writing style, and don't plan on reading more of her fiction. Though I'll never hesitate to pick up her nonfiction. I recommend that without hesitation.
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69 of 79 people found the following review helpful By K. L. Cotugno VINE VOICE on March 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Elizabeth lives with her husband James and her daughter Rosie in Marin County, leading a seemingly idyllic-seeming life. But everyone has secrets. In this continuation of her 1997 book "Rosie," Lamott employs a blend of sensuality infused with spirituality, bringing each scene to life with a vivid clarity of sight, smell and insight. Facing her senior year in high school, Rosie, most of all, is duplicitous to her parents who trust her judgment and believe her lies. Since this is a novel about people who care about one another, the conflicts are within the family unit, with the mother-daughter relationship primarily at risk. By taking Rosie at face value, the marital union is jeopardized, but as it becomes more apparent that action must be taken if they all are to survive as a family, resolution and redemption are sought in an unconventional way. The resolution of the family crisis is handled with wit and perspective, and never tips over into Jodi Picoult territory. Given the Marin setting and the fact that the characters while not particularly affluent have means beyond the common solution, not all readers will sympathize with Rosie and her situation. She's fortunate to have such loving parents who don't give up on her. She is also fortunate in her friendships. The bonds between her and her two closest friends are treated with heart and warmth, displaying a loyalty enviable to anyone.

Although this book continues Anne Lamott's 1997 novel, it can be real as a standalone since there are enough references to the former book which enlighten a new reader and refresh the memory of someone who's memories may had dimmed.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Kristen Stewart VINE VOICE on March 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I love Anne Lamott's non-fiction, so I wanted to love Imperfect Birds. It's a novel about Elizabeth and James, parents dealing with their teenager, Rosie. She is falling deeper and deeper into drugs and other addictive behaviors, in spite of being a smart, high-achieving kid. Rosie is whiny and difficult, a quintessential entitled brat, and I found the parents also harder to relate to than I thought I would. In general, I'd say that I never fully connected with the characters.

One aspect of the story I enjoyed was the deep friendships and community that their family enjoyed with Rae and Lank. Not going through the experience alone was invaluable for Elizabeth and James, and Rae also served as a safe adult that Rosie could talk to. The writing is fine, not spectacular but certainly good for contemporary fiction. The story is heartbreaking and certainly real for some families, who might take comfort in reading about someone else tackling these problems. It might also function as a good warning for parents who are not connected to their teenage children and need a kick in the pants to provide adequate supervision and guidance.

In spite of the book's shortcomings, it has a tone of hope, which helps readers to avoid the despair that thinking about these topics sometimes brings. For those interested in the subject, I'd recommend this book, with a few reservations.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By My2Cents VINE VOICE on March 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This novel begs parents to ask themselves the question, "how much freedom is too much freedom to allow your teenager". This book is number three of a trilogy --I have not read the other two books: Rosie and Crooked Little Heart, but it is not necessary to read them to fully understand this story.

In this novel, seventeen year old Rosie Ferguson is an intelligent and pretty girl who had always been pretty open with her mother. In the past she has shared personal details with her family about her friends and classmate's problems. However, as the new school year approaches it becomes clear, at least to the reader, that Rosie is a troubled girl in crisis.

Her mother, Elizabeth, is a recovering alcoholic and suffers from anxiety and depression. She knows her daughter hangs out with a fast crowd, and that Rosie has not always been honest with her, but yet Elizabeth hates to make waves. She fears that if she digs too deep, she may risk ruining her relationship with her daughter. Rosie has a stepfather, who is obsessed with work, and he seems to be pretty much a non entity. However, when a crisis occurs and things get out of control, the parents are forced to take action to help their daughter.

MY THOUGHTS - I was so looking forward to this book, and really wanted to like it, but ultimately, I was a somewhat disappointed. The writing was vivid, but I wanted to shake the mother and say "wake-up and do something". Maybe it was partly because she was struggling with her own issues, but it is not like the family did not have a good support system. I also did not care for any of the characters, and I find it hard to love a book, when I can't relate to, or don't like anyone in it. Yet, the novel tells an important story, and in many ways gives insight, at least to the observant reader, of signs to look for in a troubled teen.
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