Anne Lamott is a talented writer of fiction and nonfiction. I had not read a book by her in awhile, so I was looking forward to her newly published novel, Imperfect Birds. She explained the title in an interview in the May/June issue of Writer's Digest: "It's a line from a poem by Rumi. The line is, 'Each must enter the nest made by the other imperfect birds,' and it's really about how these kind of scraggly, raggedy nests that are our lives are the sanctuary for other people to step into . . ."
She returns to characters from her previous books Rosie and Crooked Little Heart. Seventeen-year-old Rosie has lost control. Defiant of her mother Elizabeth and stepfather James, she takes a variety of drugs and gets caught up with a guy who encourages the drug use. Elizabeth is reluctant to alienate her daughter through disciplinary actions and thereby her relationship with James suffers as she keeps secrets from him. James is the only character I consistently cared about in this book, despite him not having center stage like Rosie and Elizabeth.
One thing that bothered me about Elizabeth: why doesn't she have a job? Because she is depressed and is a recovering alcoholic? The author's point of view about this issue is unclear. Since Elizabeth and James do not have enough money at hand to send Rosie to rehab, they have to dip into money from her college fund. At one point, Rosie thinks how annoying it is that all her mother does is lounge around the house and putter in the garden when everyone else has to work.
Lamott's sensual descriptions (particularly of food) in the book remind me of one of my favorite authors, Francesca Lia Block, who does that well and also sets her novels in California. There were quite a few lines and passages that were so insightful or well-written that I wrote them down in my journal. This is an uneven novel with some beautiful writing.