Years ago, I enjoyed reading Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. It was funny and quirky and self-revealing, with some darn good writing suggestions along the way. Her new novel, Imperfect Birds, is a work of fiction, and thankfully so, as it’s characters ring painfully true.
As the story opens, seventeen year-old Rosie Ferguson is ready to enjoy the summer before her senior year of high school. She’s smart –a straight-A student; she’s athletic – a former state-ranked doubles tennis champion; she’s great with the kids at her volunteer job, and she’s beautiful to boot!. But Rosie also has a knack for driving her mother, Elizabeth, crazy. She’s also quite adept at manipulating the truth and Mom seems more than willing to believe her lies. By the time school starts again in the fall, there are disturbing signs that is Rosie is not only abusing drugs, but that she is also making very dangerous choices, forcing her parents to finally confront the obvious.
As a parent myself (though thankfully no longer of teenagers) there were times when reading this made me vaguely uncomfortable. Had I, like Elizabeth, been too trusting when my son called to ask if he could spend the night at a friend’s? Hmmmm. Still, there’s a message here for both teens and adults, and the novel does end on a very hopeful note. Readers will also note the familiarity of characters and themes from the author’s previous works, such as Rosie and A Crooked Little Heart.