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The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010


Imperfect Birds

By Anne Lamott

Riverhead Books, 2010

279 pages $25.95

This is the most painful yet compelling book that I have ever read. Lamott usually makes me laugh and then get choked up. In this case I also got anxious and somewhat depressed. Seventeen year old Rosie, the star of the book, is gorgeous and horrible, a consummate liar and hot chick. She is winning in her vulnerability and nasty as a rat in her machinations to outwit her parents, snag dope, get good grades and demean herself sexually to get high.

The scenes where Rosie lies to her recovering alcoholic mother and distracted stepfather are so realistic that I wonder how often I have been lied to and not even noticed. Yet Lamott shows Rosie as warm, tender, loving, caring to her friends, parents, children and animals. This teen is the perfect illustration of humanity as totally depraved and completely loving all at the same time.

Lamott’s love of nature and colorful descriptions of flowers, birds, mountains and hills more than hint that nature and health, the universe and wholeness are the true sources of health and healing. This becomes evident as Rosie’s parents force her into a radical program to get her off drugs and back into a life of reality. Whether or not it works is not revealed.

Without ever mentioning it, the book is a radical call for the regulation of illegal drugs. Drugs of all kinds are available to teens at school, inneighborhoods and recreation centers. There is no control over the contents or levels of potency. The kids often don’t care; they will try anything just to see how it feels. When a child gets hooked, the need and drive is relentless to get more, at whatever cost.

There is no way the parents can stop their teens from getting hold of drugs and using them. Parents cannot be clever enough to catch their beloved children in the lies and deceits that are used to evade the truth.

Lamott’s painful family scenes and dialogues make us cringe with hopelessness before our lying offspring. She shows the helping groups are also mostly useless. AA, NA, ersatz religious groups, rehab centers and programs all are used and abused by the lying kids. Recidivism runs riot.

Church groups need to get off the high horse of moral judgment and condemning of drugs to sensible support of radical governmental control of illegal drugs.

Lamott is an earnest Presbyterian but only maddeningly hints at it by naming a back to nature storefront religious group Sixth Day Prez. It features healing rituals and vacuous spirituality rather than solid Christian theology and ethics. Those probably wouldn’t work on Rosie either.

The book is thought provoking, hints at redemption and new life but offers no definite answers. The characters are shown in painstaking stark reality. One just knows that what Lamott writes is the way it is. The sad ring to it all is that there is little hope within the society to end the problem with the laws we have now.


Blogger RWC said...

There is a modern confusion between the act of forgiveness, i.e. eschewing revenge or retaliation, and attitudinal or psychological forgiving, which is involved more with acceptance and/or re-integration into social contexts of the person forgiven. The core question to me is always "Is there any form of retaliation or retribution here?" It would seem to me that demanding an apology before forgiving is somewhat retributive in the sense that the ostensibly injured party is withholding the act of forgiveness, i.e. retaining the "right" to revenge (which includes the societal tool of going to court, or comparably in church politics denying inclusion in congregational life, which frequently boils down to being simply a substitute for revenge). I see this as quite independent of the multiple benefits to both sides in the psychological process of forgiving, letting go of hostility and retained anger over the real or imagined acts and motivations of others.


7:40 PM  

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