Hour I First Believed

The Hour I First Believed

by Wally Lamb

An audio file of this program is available in mp3 format; click to listen.

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb.

Well, I was intimidated going into this one. If you’ve read She’s Come Undone or I Know this Much is True — like Oprah said you should — you know Wally Lamb writes big, serious, thoughtful novels. I thought oh man, this is where I’m gonna regret not having that MFA. Lamb’s work is both sweeping and subtle, his characters are flawed, he writes about the epic struggles raging inside a marriage, a friendship, country, a teenager’s head. In this case, the opening (but certainly not the final) battle happens in the halls of Columbine High School. Interestingly, Lamb quotes transcripts and turns an almost clinical spotlight on those horrible events, rather than create monsters he could control. In other words, his fictional characters were at the mercy of real life, just as we all are. (Hurricane Katrina, that exquisite metaphor for the futility of thinking you are the one in control, plays an important part as well.)

His narrator is pretty far down on his luck as the book begins; problems with the law, with his temper, with his current wife. When she, a survivor of the slaughter, can’t stand to be within a hundred million miles of Colorado, they move back to his family home in Connecticut. And everything is fine! Ha ha, just kidding. Caelum and Maureen have no idea just how bad things are going to get through the course of this often grueling book. Yet each of the main characters finds their own way through the maze — an often repeated image — to find peace , and if not peace, at least a place to stop.

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