The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

I love Wally Lamb. I really do. I read She’s Come Undone shortly after I graduated college, and it was the first book in ages that really spoke to me. I had been reading professor-recommended drivel that I was supposed to like because it had some literary acclaim to it, but it all seemed like a bunch of blah blah goddledygook to me. On the other hand, I considered myself a bit of a book snob (still do, in fact), and would never read the drivel that fuels most of the paperback market. Then, I chose Mr. Lamb’s book while on an impulse-buy binge at Border’s, and it introduced me to the amazing world of contemporary authors. After reading She’s Come Undone, I sought out similar reading material.

Thus began my era of reading Oprah books. Disclaimer: I have never, in my entire life, watched an episode of Oprah from start to finish. But I have to say, she picks some pretty damn good books for her club.

I Know This Much is True was the second Lamb novel I read. When I say “novel,” when speaking of Mr. Lamb’s work, I mean, GIGANTE. A big behemot of a thing. Many trees have given of their lives to be these books. I enjoyed this book so much, I read it twice. And it is interesting to note that Dominick Birdsey, the main character in IKTMIT, appears a few times in

Which brings us to “The Hour I First Believed.” When I heard there was a new Wally Lamb novel out, I ran out and bought the hardback. But then I sat on it, read other things first. Because I wanted to savor a new read from an author whose prior work I’ve loved. And also because I figured it was going to be a multi-kleenex affair, given the subject matter — at least, the book jacket teaser — deals with the tragedy of the Columbine killings.

It’s important to note that although this is a work of fiction, Lamb has woven the very real and devastating events that happened at Columbine High School into the story, with the fictional protagonist Caelum Quirk and his fictional wife, Maureen, who are both fictional employees at the real school. Maureen, the school nurse, is in the library when the shootings begin, and hides in a closet to save her life. Caelum is out of town attending to the estate of his recently deceased aunt when the shootings occur.

Maureen’s trauma deeply affects her and leaves her with PTSD, struggling with addiction to prescription meds, and unable to cope with life.

They move back to Caelum’s family farm in Connecticut to try and escape the bad memories in Littleton, in hopes that Maureen will bounce back. However, Maureen doesn’t hit rock bottom until she is involved in an accident that takes the life of a young man.

The remaining pages are the aftermath of what Caelum experiences in trying to cope with his wife’s downfall. And then it takes a detour and delves into the past with Caelum’s aunt. And, I gotta be honest, this is where the book lost me. I was with him for the first 400 pages and then I couldn’t get into this backstory. Caelum also discovers that his mother might not be who he has always believed. Which also goes into some of this backstory/flashback side plot.

So I preface my review with mad props for Wally Lamb, and if this book ended on page 400, I’d have mad props for this one as well. But this one just went a bit long in the tooth. If you are up for the challenge, by all means, he is a wonderful writer and does create some memorable storylines. Just be prepared to jump off course a few times.

So, maybe a year went by before I began reading.

… there was a lot more to this post, but it got eaten! Argh! Will work on this and update ASAP.

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