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Imperfect Birds, Anne Lamott

2010/05/25

There are two primary thoughts I had coming away from this book: “I never ever want to be a parent” and “Wow, my parents got off easy with raising my sisters and me.” In Imperfect Birds, Lamott continues the story of Elizabeth, who struggles with depression, anxiety, and alcohol, her husband James, a writer who strikes it big with an NPR spot, and her daughter, seventeen-year-old Rosie, smart, pretty, athletic, and a druggie. Much of the novel focuses on the relationship between Elizabeth, who only wants to see the best in her daughter, and Rosie, who knows and takes advantage of this by indulging in drugs, alcohol, and sex. James, being Elizabeth’s second husband and Rosie’s stepfather, tries to be stricter in order to set healthy boundaries for Rosie, but is often undermined by Elizabeth’s desire to be liked by her daughter. The friction between James and Elizabeth is a fascinating look at the stresses of parenting on a marriage relationship. Elizabeth is often presented through Rosie’s perspective, and so the reader becomes caught up in a certain scorn/sympathy for the mother of the rebellious teen. Yet towards the last third of the novel when Elizabeth finally begins to seek out advice from those who have dealt with teens before, the reader may want to shake her and say “What took you so long to realize you needed help?!” The discussion she has with Anthony from the local Sixth Day Prez church is one that every parent dealing with a teenager ought to be able to have with someone close to them.

Though a fast-paced and interesting novel, I can’t say that I enjoyed reading this one. However, I think it is an important book for parents of teens and those who work with teens to consider picking up.

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