I shouldn't have read "Imperfect Birds" right after reading "Every Last One" (review below). I confess I hadn't really read the plot outline for "Imperfect Birds", I just knew this was a new book by Anne Lamott and like her fiction and non-fiction works. Also, I had just gotten both books from the library and I like to read the high-demand library books first so others don't have to wait long to get them.
The reason why I should not have read them back to back is that the subjects are very similar. Both focus on moms who are worried about their kids, with great reason, as it turns out in both cases. Elizabeth is concerned that daughter Rosie is into drugs, yet she overlooks every single clue that Rosie drops. In fact, I would say that Elizabeth is The Queen of Denial. Although Rosie is a consummate liar, any other reasonable mother would be hard pressed to overlook what is obviously going on with Rosie. Even when Rosie partially confesses: "I've only smoked marijuana a couple of times, Mom, I swear", or "I had just one beer, Mom", Elizabeth just brushes her worries away.
Elizabeth herself has problems. She has struggled with depression and other mental illness for years, and is a recovering alcoholic. Hmm, you suspect your daughter of drinking and using drugs, and you know that alcoholism is inherited, but you still sweep all your suspicions under the rug? One of your daughter's very best friends went to rehab for drug use? She's become too friendly with an older guy who is known to hang with the tweakers and stoners? You smell bleach in Rosie's urine test cup but blow it off? Get a clue, Elizabeth.
James, Elizabeth's husband and Rosie's stepfather, is not as stupid, but he has to walk on eggshells around Elizabeth. He's also trying to walk a fine line between maintaining Rosie's obvious affection for him and saving her from herself.
Although I actually did like all three characters, plus Elizabeth's earth mother friend Rae, I was so frustrated with all the lying and using that went on page after page, chapter after chapter.The denial finally stops when Rosie has to go to the emergency room for an overdose of cough syrup. Elizabeth at last wises up and she and James send Rosie off to a wilderness camp.
This could have been the best part of the book but it came too little, too late. And the book ends abruptly with Rosie having finished only the first month of her three-month stint at the camp. I would have loved to have known what happened to Rosie. It was like watching the A&E TV series "Intervention" and not getting to see the part where you learn if the participants have stayed sober or relapsed.
ADDED LATER: Maybe we'll see what happens to Rosie in a future Lamott book. I just found out that "Imperfect Birds" is a follow-up to other books about Elizabeth and Rosie, "Rosie" (Rosie at age 5) and "Crooked Little Heart" (Rosie at age 13).