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Imperfect Birds: A Novel Hardcover – April 6, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; First Edition edition (April 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594487510
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594487514
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (122 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #739,675 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.

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

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

I couldn't wait for the book to end.
Karen Haley
I know many people wanted to like this one (and I tried REALLY hard to) but it isn't good writing.
magic77
This book is boring, and the characters are not believable.
Young, Hip, and Crazy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

125 of 140 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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67 of 77 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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23 of 27 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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. Drugay on July 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I really like Annie Lamott's non-fiction, and Bird by Bird is one of my favorite "writing tips" books - so although it took me a while to get around to it, I was curious to read her fiction. Aaaaaand, I was pretty disappointed.

This book is the third in a series, which I didn't realize when I picked it up, but that didn't affect the storyline or characters (not knowing earlier info, that is). Short summary: the trials & tribulations of a family in Marin (wealthy county north of SF) - recovering alcoholic mom, struggling writer stepdad, and teenage Rosie, formerly an overachieving prep who gets into drugs and parties pretty much because she's a teenager and growing up in Marin with a stepdad is lame and she's looking for some thrills. The parents find out and freak out and over-dramatize every little thing, trying to figure out how to "fix" Rosie.

The story is good because it's real life. But the characters are all very unlikeable and unsympathetically rendered. The mother is an anxiety-ridden nutcase who doesn't have a clue about the world around her - I honestly felt like she was about 80 years old, or someone who grew up in a cave, when she's really supposed to be not even 50. She comes across as unbelievably naive, sheltered, and conservative, which didn't ring true at all. And then she reads Rosie's journal and picks through her stuff and then wonders why Rosie can't trust her. As a reader, I can't trust her!

The stepdad locks himself away writing essays for NPR and comes across as a stereotypical smug liberal.

I feel the worst for Rosie, because it sounds super-boring growing up in her little town, being made to volunteer at her mother's friend's new age church.
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