Several friends have recommended that I read a Wally Lamb novel for a couple of years now. Their recommendation was based on how well Lamb grasps characters and the intense emotions he shares. Every story told about his books ended with the friends describing how they cried throughout the whole book.
Its hard to begin a book that you know will emotionally rip you apart. Which is why it took me awhile to pick any of them up. I found The Hour I First Believed while randomly browsing my local library, so I figured that fate was telling me that it was finally time to read Wally Lamb.
The Hour I First Believed begins the weekend before the Columbine school shooting. It uses the killers real words and the victims real names so that the victims are not forgotten. Just from that description, I’m sure any reader can guess why this story is emotional. But Lamb takes it further. Not only do the main characters work at the school, Caelum is a teacher and Maureen a school nurse, but Maureen was in the library in the middle of the rampage. Caelum luckily (?) wasn’t there because he was across country taking care of his dying aunt.
Caelum races across the country to find out what happened to Maureen. When they reunited, they need to face their own grief and Caelum finds himself in a strange teacher role dealing with the kids who have less life experience to deal with the tragedy that the teachers themselves.
Without fulling dealing with their emotions about the Columbine shooting, Caelum and Maureen return east to Caelum’s family farm in Connecticut. Its in Connecticut that Caelum must deal with his past, both personal and family past. Lamb reveals one thing after another, to make it seem that the life Caelum and Maureen are trying to save, just won’t let them. There’s bad luck and then theres the luck that these two have. Affairs uncovered. Hit and runs. Jail time. Alcholism. Throughout its hard to tell whats keeping them going. Is it guilt? Obligation?
I can’t answer those questions, but I can say that I cried throughout the book. Just like my friends recommendation, this book emotionally ripped me apart but by the end I was hopeful. Ripping my heard out through reading is tough, but putting the hope back in is even harder. Wally Lamb truly gets real human emotion. Its complex, but amazing.
I heartily recommend this novel, but with a box of tissues.
Read December 2014.