Imperfect Birds Review
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Elizabeth Ferguson has seen her share of hardship. She’s been a widow, a single mother, and an alcoholic—but she’s made it through, with the help of her sweet (if eccentric) husband, James, and her smart teenage daughter, Rosie.

But now Elizabeth is facing another of her life’s hardships. Seventeen-year-old Rosie may seem like a typical teenager—a sweet, hard-working girl who loves kids and excels in school—but her life is spiraling out of control. Caught up in the town’s drug culture, Rosie sneaks out to get high whenever she gets a chance. She lies and steals, and she’s breaking her parents’ hearts—even though they don’t know half of what Rosie’s gotten herself into. Still, they feel completely helpless to do anything about it—especially Elizabeth—because they’re so desperate for her love.

As Rosie’s senior year of high school approaches, her situation becomes more and more serious—and it’s only a matter of time before Elizabeth and James will be forced to make a difficult decision to save her.

Author Anne Lamott’s Imperfect Birds is a heartbreaking story about the precarious line that parents so often walk with their teenage children: either discipline them and face their teenage wrath or let them make their own mistakes and suffer the consequences, no matter how life-shattering they may be. True to Lamott’s usual style, it’s written in such graceful, elegant prose that the words almost seem to dance across the page.

Despite its beautiful prose, though, this character-driven story certainly isn’t an easy one to read—especially since you’ll often find yourself feeling frustrated by the characters and the decisions that they make. Rosie is such a smart kid with so much potential, yet she’s all too willing to throw her life away for the chance to fit in. She’s a compulsive liar—and when her mother finally tries to put an end to her dangerous behavior by giving her random drug tests, she responds by becoming an even better liar (and figuring out how to doctor the tests).

Elizabeth, meanwhile, seems way too naïve. As a recovering alcoholic, she knows the warning signs, and she knows the dangers—yet she’s so afraid of being the bad guy (and so intent on protecting Rosie from James’s reaction) that she chooses to tiptoe around the situation, pretending there’s nothing wrong. She may not know everything that Rosie’s doing, but what she does know doesn’t seem to bother her as much as it should. In fact, she seems more troubled when she learns that Rosie’s been smoking cigarettes than she does about the fact that she’s done cocaine.

Still, the characters are real: the teenager who thinks she’s invincible, the mom who just wants her child to be happy. Together, though, they’re a train wreck waiting to happen. It’s often maddening to watch their story play out, and, unfortunately, there’s very little closure in the end—just an ongoing story, awaiting the next chapter.

Imperfect Birds is a beautifully written novel—often smooth and serene in style, though the subject matter is anything but. It’s an honest and sincere story, too—but its two frustrating main characters often make for a challenging read.

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