How many novels can you name that have a sympathetic recovering alcoholic mother at the helm? For me, nothing comes immediately to mind except Anne Lamott’s Rosie trilogy: ROSIE, CROOKED LITTLE HEART, and now, IMPERFECT BIRDS.
Elizabeth Ferguson, Rosie’s mother, is one of my favorite characters to come around in a long, long time–maybe ever. She’s flawed, yet completely lovable–a widow who mourns for her lost husband, but finds a great guy to love, a bookworm who can’t seem to figure out what she’d like to do with herself in the real world, other than read and hang out with her family, a doting mother who has a hard time with the discipline part of parenting. And–a woman who struggles to stay sober.
I’m reading IMPERFECT BIRDS right now, and you can see the legacy of addictive behaviors from mother to daughter, and how Elizabeth is ripped apart with worry for her beautiful daughter Rosie, who is getting deeper and deeper into alcohol and drug use.
Throughout, there are priceless quotes about AA, mothering, alcoholism and life in general. Here’s one, from the point of view of teenage Rosie: “He told her stuff about the meetings….such as that people there said that AA was for problem drinkers, and Al-Anon for problem thinkers, spouses and parents of alcoholics, who hid out in their rooms, secretly thinking alone, having good ideas on how to rescue and fix the drinker. She pretended to listen.”