Imperfect Birds: A Novel by Anne Lamott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Anne Lamott is a good writer, there is no question in my mind about that. I loved her memoirs, "Traveling Mercies," and "Plan B." I was less enthralled with her novels, "Blue Shoes" and "Joe Jones." Her latest novel, "Imperfect Birds," was published in April of this year and is a follow-up story to "Rosie," which came out in 1983. The new book has the same strengths and weaknesses as the earlier ones.
"Imperfect Birds" has the feeling of fictionalized autobiography. It's about a recovering alcoholic/drug addict mother and her teen-age daughter who is also a drug addict. It depicts their conflicts and co-dependencies in what seem like very realistic ways. A number of Lamott's books touch on those themes, as she is a recovering drug addict. Lamott is good at leavening the dysfunctions with humor. Lamott is unapologetically spiritual, but doesn't use the language of conventional religion to convey her beliefs. She certainly has not led a conventional "godly" life."
The weakness of Lamott as a writer is described by herself in her description of James, a writer who is the step-father of the troubled daughter. I don't have the exact language at hand, but the gist of it is that James is very good at writing description and dialogue, which he gleans from everyday people and situations. He is not so good with plot. My wife and I were listening to the book being read as an audiobook on a recent trip and as the reader read the description of James's writing, by wife said, "She is describing her own writing."
The book is better than average because of its strengths. It doesn't rate five stars because of its weaknesses.