A coworker introduced Anne Lamott’s writings to me ten years ago while I was pregnant with Selah with her book Operating Instructions. Bird by Bird grounded me as a beginning Christian writer and Grace is a book I return to often when I need solace. So I’m excited to feature her latest novel Imperfect Birds as this Week’s Wednesday Read. I think this is one of the best books of the year so far.
Rosie is the bright kid who lost her father in a drunken accident at age 4 in Lamott's second novel, Rosie. She resurfaced on the Northern California junior tennis circuit as a 13-year-old being stalked by a possible pedophile in Crooked Little Heart. Now, at 17, she's an A student on the last lap of her marathon to a prestigious college, but she's giving her worried mother and stepfather conniptions over the drugs they gradually realize she's abusing, and the lies they keep catching her in.
Imperfect Birds highlights the anxiety of parenthood in "a world aquiver with menace," as Lamott put it in Crooked Little Heart. She opens with a point-blank declaration few will disagree with: "There are so many evils that pull on our children." And as Lamott dramatizes in this tale of insidious addiction and inadvertent enablement, woe unto the parent not steady enough to set clear boundaries and provide firm guidance.
There are so many evils that pull on our children. Even in the mellow town of Landsdale, where it is easy to see only beauty and decency, a teenager died nearly every year after a party and kids routinely went from high school to psych wards, halfway houses, or jail. Once a year a child from the county of Marin jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge.
Elizabeth Ferguson looked around at the Saturday-morning comings and goings of townspeople, and saw parents who had lost or were losing their kids, kids who had lost or were losing their minds. Read full excerpt here.
Best Review snippet: From Ron Charles of the Washington Post…
Not only is it a moving and perceptive portrayal of raising a substance-abusing teenager, but it implicitly offers the kind of advice that many parents need to hear. One hopes that concerned friends and school counselors will begin passing "Imperfect Birds" to beleaguered moms and dads just as they've long given copies of "Operating Instructions" to expectant parents. (Roxanna Robinson's "Cost," about a mother dealing with her heroin-addict son, is a better novel -- one of the best I've read in years -- but it's so devastating that giving it to any parent in the throes of that trauma would be cruel.)