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Imperfect Birds

(Rosie Ferguson #3)

3.28  ·  Rating details ·  6,169 Ratings  ·  1,161 Reviews
Rosie Ferguson is seventeen and ready to enjoy the summer before her senior year of high school. She's intelligent-she aced AP physics; athletic-a former state-ranked tennis doubles champion; and beautiful. She is, in short, everything her mother, Elizabeth, hoped she could be. The family's move to Landsdale, with stepfather James in tow, hadn't been as bumpy as Elizabeth ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 6th 2010 by Riverhead Books (first published April 1st 2010)
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Mar 23, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
Anne Lamott ends her trilogy about a mother-daughter relationship using horrible (and often vulgar) cliches about motherhood, marriage, teenagers, friendship, and faith. Her self-indulgence knows no bounds. Ironically, she sees herself as somehow different (and above) her Marin county community that is portrayed in this "fictional novel." At one point, she writes about the "smug" residents of Marin county and I could not help but yell out dude, you are seriously projecting!

Unbelievably, at the e
Jan 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
I liked this, and other people didn't, and that makes perfect sense to me.

What makes less sense to me is that so many readers' praise and complaints hinge on two things:

1) liking or identifying with the characters;

2) verisimilitude--by which I mean the reader's own convictions that people do or do not act in such and such a way, that the characters' choices do or do not resemble the choices of people the reader knows.

And those two categories are really just one: "this reminds me of me (and/o
Oct 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book taught me more about the different names for all of the different available drugs than I ever really needed to know. The bigger problem in the novel was a lack of likable characters. Rosie is a lying, manipulative brat who still calls her mother "Mommy" and snuggles with her at night, even though she is almost 18- while her alter ego outside of the house is having unprotected sex, mixing toxic combinations of drugs and alcohol, and longingly trying to seduce her married, high school te ...more
Thing Two
Jun 02, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommended to Thing Two by: NYT Review
This is my first Anne Lamott fiction book and I found it an easy enough story to read, but I'm not sure I totally bought the story hook, line, and sinker.

The story is about a recovering alcoholic mother and her drug-addicted daughter. Both characters are whiny, which might come with the addictive personna, but it got old. But, maybe drug addiction gets old, too.

The mother seemed way too naive to be a recovering alcoholic; the daughter seemed way too competent to be a drug-addict. I expected the
Sep 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
If there were a contest – something not physical that involves grammar, maybe – to show who was the biggest Anne Lamott fan, I would definitely fight my little wordy-nerdy heart out to win it, just for the title. This woman’s work has, fundamentally, changed my life – both my outlook and my writing. Her books Traveling Mercies, Plan B, and Grace Eventually gave me the space to look at my own faith with humor and with, well, grace. Bird by Bird is my favorite writing book because it is written in ...more
Jul 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book perplexes me. The copyright is 2010...but apparently, not one of these parents have Caller ID, and there's still a working pay phone somewhere in this affluent California town, and the girls have an incident with "quaaludes" but go to raves and take ecstasy? Um, what year is this set in?

I like Anne Lamott's writing. There were many sentences, particularly in the first two chapters, that I was itching to take a pencil and underline. But the narrative itself falls flat. No, it's not easy
May 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
My feelings about Anne Lamott's books are always all scrambled up with my feelings about her. I like her work, but I always have this sort of nudgey feeling about her--talented and funny as I think she is. Somehow I feel like she's a bit needy and trying and would be a friend with whom I'd have to really work at the relationship (and trying not to kill her). I have no idea where this came from, but I have read an awful lot of her personal essays, so I can't help feeling that it's an accurate imp ...more
Apr 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Characters in Anne Lamott's novels say things like this:

"To begin with, you need to tell me all of your unsaids, Elizabeth. They're killing us. You've been using your sincereness in counterfeit ways."

And that's not even the Mother Earth character. Because there is always a Mother Earth character, a spiritual hippie with a warm aura and a soft lap whose words are a higher grade of fortune cookie wisdom.

In "Imperfect Birds," Lamott revisits the characters from "Rosie" and "Crooked Little Heart.
Jun 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I really like Annie Lamott's non-fiction, and Bird by Bird is one of my favorite "writing tips" books - so although it took me a while to get around to it, I was curious to read her fiction. Aaaaaand, I was pretty disappointed.

This book is the third in a series, which I didn't realize when I picked it up, but that didn't affect the storyline or characters (not knowing earlier info, that is). Short summary: the trials & tribulations of a family in Marin (wealthy county north of SF) - recoveri
Aug 25, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
Aaaargh, first review deleted thanks to the machinations of my flippantly evil touchpad. To sum up:
a) I picked this audio book up in a rush at the library because Lamott had been recommended to me and I recognized her name when it was pick a book or go home without one because it was closing time;

b) this being an audio book means that one's ability to "skim over" parts is greatly hindered;

and c) I ended up abandoning it for several reasons.

1. I got about 2 cds into the story, and still could no
May 07, 2010 rated it liked it
Anne Lamott shines at non-fiction. Her essays are confessional and human; it is easy to take something away from the reading of them. This book, Imperfect Birds, is her latest work of fiction. I worked hard at appreciating it because my friend karen sent it to me and I wanted to be grateful. And I am. karen is a jewel. But this book? Well, this book not so much so.

The last thing I expected from Lamott was preachiness; her work is usually very approachable and it is easy to feel as if you are
Jun 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
Subtitle: "Helicoper parents and their spoiled brat enabled children". Or, "Helicopter Parenting for Dummies". Ultimately, I ended up thinking that Lamott actually *meant* to criticize these helicopter parents with this work of fiction, not have us empathize with them, so I guess if that's the case then I totally agree with her. But I still found it unbelievably irritating to read over and over about these enabling parents. They just KEPT making the same stupid parenting mistakes over and over, ...more
Mary Novaria
Apr 12, 2010 rated it liked it
Imperfect Birds is an imperfect book, but that’s okay. I forgive Anne Lamott just about anything, since I’m nuts about her and I know she pours her guts, heart and soul into her writing. Because of that, though, this work of fiction sometimes gets a little crazy and overwrought.

The story is about 17-year-old Rosie spiraling out of control, and the parents who are clueless then horrified, careless then vigilant, and rarely on the same proverbial page.

Even though Rosie is not very likeable, my h
Joan Winnek
Jul 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I found the characters in this book absolutely believable. We have seen Rosie and her mother in two other novels by Anne Lamott, at different ages. Here we see them on a collision course where the solution is not apparent. It's too easy to be disdainful of people who struggle with addiction: these are people with real brilliance who are also flawed (who isn't?). I always enjoy Anne Lamott's writing, her quirky but incisive prose style.
Jul 17, 2010 rated it did not like it
I love her but this one was not worth the time. Guess if you lived in CA it would make more sense. Just didn't have the heart of her other books.
Jan 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
I am surprised to see so many less than favorable reviews of this book. I think Lamott paints a realistic picture of what life CAN be like with a teenager. She portrays with accuracy how parents can be caught unaware when their child, who has never before given them reason for concern, is slowly changing in troubling ways. These parents, Elizabeth in particular, want to believe their very persuasive daughter.

The fact that Elizabeth is a recovering alcoholic and her daughter develops a drug prob
Sep 25, 2010 rated it it was ok
I recently read Anne Lamottt's Traveling Mercies and absolutely loved it. It was insightful and funny and hopeful. So I was looking forward to reading her latest. I have not read any of her fiction except for Blue Shoe (long ago), which I recall enjoying. But this one, not so much.
Lamott has a talent for evoking physical images: of people, of nature. But all the dialogue in this book was painfully self-conscious. Characters would say clever or deep things, and the writer character would say, "Ca
Feb 13, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2010
Oh, the trials and tribulations of the privileged in Marin County - how difficult their Birkenstock-wearing lives, how trite their wise women, how much they over-react.

Yes, drug and alcohol abuse among teens can be deadly, but not every beer drunk is a step on the road to hell nor does it require a visit to freakin' rehab. Yes, teenagers lie and are difficult to live with - this isn't a bolt from the blue and doesn't necessitate almost 300 pages of whinging. Man, it's really damned difficult to
Jan 08, 2011 rated it liked it
This book felt particularly poignant because it rang true as my own story. In Lamott's latest novel, she weaves the story of a family controlled by the 17-year-old daughter's alcoholism. The mother, Elizabeth, is a recovering alcoholic with debilitating anxiety. Rosie, the daughter, is a manipulative, charming, enigmatic addict. Her lies pull the family apart.
As a teenage addict myself, I identified with Rosie's dishonesty and manipulation. I found myself laughing aloud at some of the stories sh
Sep 20, 2011 rated it did not like it
Usually I really like Anne Lamott's work, and true to form her writing itself is beautiful in places in this book, but unfortunately I hated pretty much everything else about the book. First of all, the author did not get me invested in the characters. Frankly, I will follow a dead plot longer than I should if I love the characters in a story. The three central characters in this story all seemed flat to me. Rosie was a typical snotty know-it-all teenager and I was never really invested in wheth ...more
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
Disappointing. I chose this book from the library because it was the same author as Bird by Bird.

"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sa
Mar 22, 2010 rated it liked it
This novel begs parents to ask themselves the question, "how much freedom is too much freedom to allow your teenager". This book is number three of a trilogy --I have not read the other two books: Rosie and Crooked Little Heart, but it is not necessary to read them to fully understand this story.

In this novel, seventeen year old Rosie Ferguson is an intelligent and pretty girl who had always been pretty open with her mother. In the past she has shared personal details with her family about her f
Kasa Cotugno
Feb 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
Elizabeth lives with her husband James and her daughter Rosie in Marin County, leading a seemingly idyllic-seeming life. But everyone has secrets. In this continuation of her 1997 book "Rosie," Lamott employs a blend of sensuality infused with spirituality, bringing each scene to life with a vivid clarity of sight, smell and insight. Facing her senior year in high school, Rosie, most of all, is duplicitous to her parents who trust her judgment and believe her lies. Since this is a novel about pe ...more

I love Anne Lamott's non-fiction, so I wanted to love Imperfect Birds. It's a novel about Elizabeth and James, parents dealing with their teenager, Rosie. She is falling deeper and deeper into drugs and other addictive behaviors, in spite of being a smart, high-achieving kid. Rosie is whiny and difficult, a quintessential entitled brat, and I found the parents also harder to relate to than I thought I would. In general, I'd
May 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I think this is the BEST Anne Lamott book I've read. The writing is phenomenal and the story grabbed me from the first page. It may have been b/c the topic was rather close to home and I found myself identifying with the neurotically enabling mother at times.

Too many parents think that they've succeeded if their kids "appear" to be walking the straight and narrow, telling you exactly what they know you want to hear and yet behind the scenes the deception and lies hide a secret life that can deva
Mar 16, 2012 rated it liked it
At first, this book comes across as a bit repetitively cyclical - girl engages in risky behavior, girl lies to parents, parents lay down the law, girl sneaks around and engages in more risky behavior, and the cycle repeats - and character development seems stagnant, hindering my connection with both Rosie (the troubled daughter) and Elizabeth (her troubled mom). Too many pages seem to pass before progress is made, characters are changed, and redemption is reached.

But perhaps what Lamott is reall
Kasey Jueds
Jun 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I am such a huge Anne Lamott fan, but always thought I preferred her nonfiction to her novels. This novel is so wonderful I may have to change my mind about that. It's the third in a series about Rosie, now a teenager, her mother and stepfather and their friends, who all live in a semi-idyllic Northern California town. What struck me particularly about this book is how likeable so many--really all--of the characters are, in spite of the incredibly bad/difficult/painful behavior some of them exhi ...more
Nov 04, 2015 rated it did not like it
i only finished this book cause i
kept thinking chapter after chapter that mama was finally gonna realize what the heck was going on with her bratty drug abusing daughter, but somehow i got to the end of the book, and still she was an idiot.
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
The book, as narrated by Susan Denaker, was an engaging story, so much so that sometimes I just had to drive around to finish a section (I was listening on the CD set in my car). It was at times joyful and frequently painful to listen to, though by the end of somewhat repetitive.

Rosie is 17 and lives with her mother Elizabeth and step-father James in Marin County. In her senior year in high school, she yearns to be free of the restrictions and control exerted by her parents, even claiming at one
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Anne Lamott is an author of several novels and works of non-fiction. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, her non-fiction works are largely autobiographical, with strong doses of self-deprecating humor and covering such subjects as alcoholism, single motherhood, and Christianity. She appeals to her fans because of her sense of humor, her deeply felt insights, and her outspoken views on topics such ...more

Other books in the series

Rosie Ferguson (3 books)
  • Rosie
  • Crooked Little Heart
“butterflies were wind energy made visible.” 21 likes
“Life with most teenagers was like having a low-grade bladder infection. It hurts, but you had to tough it out.” 13 likes
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