Callum Iles's Reviews > Imperfect Birds

Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott
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Jul 11, 2011

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Anne Lamott has never been one to stay within the lines of normality. Converted to Christianity through the writings of Soren Kierkegaard, she has forged forth as a provoking thinker, an entertaining writer and a believer that life is too short not to be controversial. Lamott’s controversy though is not born out of simply the desire to be different, but out of real conviction stemming from a difficult life and a love for the broken. I cannot fault her for this even though sometimes she makes me squirm.
Imperfect Birds is Anne Lamott’s foray into story, where she tells of a Bay Area family consisting of an alcoholic, a workaholic and child, who thinks she is an adult, addicted to the world of drugs. The book has a confronting rawness to it, as it shows life the way it really is; sometimes confusing, sometimes heartbreaking and how God is always there for us. The story draws on the author’s experiences of addiction and motherhood, and how mostly life as a parent consists of making the best decision you can at the time. Amongst all this, Lamott manages to find a perplexing middle ground between the harsh realities of family struggles and the beauty of life.
One of the interesting complexities of Imperfect Birds for me was that it wasn’t what would be called a ‘feel good’ book, with none of the characters catering to the audience. Each was flawed in their own way and while they had moments of appeal such as when Rosie and her mother finally speak frankly to each other, Lamott manages to create a story which reflects reality rather than building an ideal.
One can tell that much thought and prayer has gone into Imperfect Birds. Much like the characters in the story, on the surface it seems like a rather standard dramatic fiction, but if you know what you are looking for you can see glimpses of God meeting us in our brokenness, of sociological insights on the beautiful bond between mother and daughter and how that can be manipulated and how important it is that parents act early when there are signs their children are becoming involved in the wrong things.
Lamott is a true wordsmith and as well as the story being engaging, at times her sentences capture you with the way they paint a story before you.
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