Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott

Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott is the third book in what I have come to think of as the Rosie books (Rosie and Crooked Little Heart, which I have reviewed here and here.).  Rosie Ferguson is now a teenager moving quickly into being a young adult, enjoying her last summer of high school before her senior year begins.  New friends, new home, new school have left her with only a few anchors–her mother, Elizabeth, her step-father, James, and their friends, Rae and Lank.

The little lies that Rosie had learned to use to manipulate the adults in her life in the previous novel have now become not only larger but far more effective.  It helps that Rosie’s parents perhaps don’t really want to see what is immediately before their eyes, preferring to trust where evidence clearly says something else is called for.  And Rosie’s self-destructive choices escalate as her desperate cries for help go unnoticed, unanswered, and unrecognized.

Naturally a crisis inevitably comes and the family is forced to face the truth.  Once again, Lamott allows the love they all have for one another to offer healing, even in the face of the unimaginable or hopefully impossible.

James and Elizabeth’s relationship is still strong if matured, less passionate and more settled.  Elizabeth is still so insecure and overwrought with fear that I find her unlikable and James, although his self-righteousness occasionally annoys comes through as an emotional anchor for the women in his life.  Rae and Lank play a smaller role in this novel which mostly focuses on Rosie’s rebellion.  It is her friends who come forward as more emotionally pivotal.  And I have loved Rosie from the first novel but the truth is, she isn’t all that nice in this novel.  She’s a teenager, full of rootless resentment and insecurity that makes more sense than her choices that are the result of how she feels about herself and her life.  I didn’t like her as much as before but I still cared about her.

And there’s always this . . . perhaps a few years from now, Lamott will once again dip into the inspiration that Rosie affords and give us another look into her life.  I definitely want to see what happens with her over the next few years because, as with her other Rosie novels, the conclusion is hopeful if not happily-ever-after.  For this, I am sincerely grateful.

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