Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Writing with intensity

Typically, I enjoy an easy read, feel-good fluff, nostalgia. But Wally Lamb's 734 page novel, The Hour I First Believed, is one of those books that you either love or hate. The ratings and reviews run hot and cold, either a one star or a five star. Chaos is a central theme, and I never thought that any author could get away with weaving fictional characters in with the Columbine tragedy, Katrina and other life altering events while adding little known snippets of history and using the actual names of the shooters.

This book is intense, and I can't put it down. It is unnerving as it takes the reader into the belly of the beast, so to speak. The premise is that Caelum and his wife worked at Columbine when the horrific events unfolded. Maureen a nurse, is emotionally damaged, ends up drug addicted and while driving home, kills a kid and goes to a prison, once owned by Caelum's family. The plot and subplots are character driven and multi-layered. The reader is often diverted into the lives of other characters. Some readers like this; others feel Lamb goes off on too many jaunts.

I appreciate when an author infuses comedic relief into a novel when the story line becomes nail-biting-intense. In one scene, Caelum is speaking to Dr. Woodward, the prison psychiatrist, who insists on being called Woody. "After a while I was only half listening to him because I had started making a list in my head of other Woodys: Woody Allen, Woody Woodpecker, Woody, the bartender on Cheers."

His wife's first psychiatrist, a woman asks him what is good instead of what is bad. He quips something to this effect, "Well it sure isn't Dubya and Darth Vader running the country for the next three years."

Sentences like these, allow the reader to exhale, take a deep breath and or chuckle.

I read Lamb's first book, She's Come Undone, and had to keep looking to be sure Wally was a guy. Everyone I have talked to about the book said the same thing.
His second novel, I Know This Much Is True is one of my all time favorites, but, I had to plod through the first fifty pages, and after that, every page was a page turner with a shock or surprise at every intersection.

If I had known the subject of this novel, about Columbine, woven with other current events, I most likely would not have bought it. I bought this novel based strictly on the author's name, didn't even read the jacket. Now it's too late; I'm drawn in. Involved. Hooked. On page 379.

Have you read Wally Lamb?


Sioux Roslawski said...

"She's Come Undone" was written from perspective of a woman and the voice was so genuine, I suspected Lamb had had a penilectomy to write like that.

I did not read his 2nd novel, but will, since you recommend it so highly.

Pat Wahler said...

Tried to read the first one and couldn't get into it. Maybe I'll try again.

Critter Alley

Val said...

I read "She's Come Undone" because my buddy Oprah recommended it. Because I liked it so much, I checked out "This Much I Know is True" from the local library one summer. I rechecked it twice, and could not get into it. Never finished.

"The Hour I First Believed" is in my pile of books to be read. I started it and set it aside after about 30 pages. I'll get around to it one day.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Never heard of him before this post, Linda. I don't think I have the wherewithal or the time to read a 734 page novel.

Susan said...

No Linda. Have not read that author at all but his latest book that you are reading sounds intriguing. Susan p.s.

Thanks for being a faithful Follower and coming to visit every day. It means SO MUCH to me!

Lynn said...

I haven't read anything by this author either.

Bookie said...

I read one Wally Lamb years ago. It was okay but I have never picked up another. But it is a good idea to return to an author either because you like him or to give him a second chance. Some authors write similar books while others write books vastly different from each other. I too buy books based on the author I know.

BECKY said...

Nope, never read any of his...

Tammy said...

I haven't. But my reading list just got longer.