Friday, March 21, 2014

We Are Water by Wally Lamb


We Are Water
by Wally Lamb
Harper, 2013
576 pages
source: purchased

Publisher's summary:
We Are Water  is a disquieting and ultimately uplifting novel about a marriage, a family, and human resilience in the face of tragedy, from Wally Lamb, the New York Times bestselling author of The Hour I First Believed  and I Know This Much Is True.

After 27 years of marriage and three children, Anna Oh—wife, mother, outsider artist—has fallen in love with Viveca, the wealthy Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her success. They plan to wed in the Oh family’s hometown of Three Rivers in Connecticut. But the wedding provokes some very mixed reactions and opens a Pandora’s Box of toxic secrets—dark and painful truths that have festered below the surface of the Ohs’ lives.

We Are Water is a layered portrait of marriage, family, and the inexorable need for understanding and connection, told in the alternating voices of the Ohs—nonconformist, Anna; her ex-husband, Orion, a psychologist; Ariane, the do-gooder daughter, and her twin, Andrew, the rebellious only son; and free-spirited Marissa, the youngest. It is also a portrait of modern America, exploring issues of class, changing social mores, the legacy of racial violence, and the nature of creativity and art.

With humor and compassion, Wally Lamb brilliantly captures the essence of human experience and the ways in which we search for love and meaning in our lives.

My thoughts:

Wally Lamb is one of my favorite authors. When he writes a novel, it's always a "must read". This time I purchased the kindle edition because we were going on vacation and I didn't feel like lugging around a nearly 600 page hardcover.

As it turned out, We Are Water lead me on a different kind of journey. It is populated by typical Lamb characters - very real, but flawed. As usual, I delighted in the mention of familiar landmarks - Claire's in New Haven, CT and Syracuse University. And, as always, I loved Lamb's storytelling.

Yet somehow, this novel didn't have quite the same impact as his earlier works. I shed no tears, nor did I laugh out loud. Maybe the dark underbelly of humanity played too prominent a role this time. I found the pedophilia and abuse to be repulsive... and felt like I needed a shower after spending time with those characters. {However, as I type, it occurs to me that the revulsion is actually a different sort of impact.}

Despite hints of redemption, this was all a bit too much for me - too many story lines, too much dysfunction, too many pages. I am quite certain another excellent Lamb novel was in there but, with so much to wade through, I never quite found it.

Don't get me wrong. We Are Water  is still a good book with marvelous storytelling and I'm glad to have read it. Even though it will not be a favorite, it made me want to reread The Hour I First Believed or I Know This Much is True.

I love Wally Lamb's style.

My rating:

26 comments:

  1. Hmm. I feel the same way about Lamb: whenever a book of his is published, I want to read it. I've been reading similar thoughts about We are Water. I'm still going to pick it up but maybe at a later date. Thanks for letting us know what you think of it.

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    1. Vasilly - Lamb sure can tell a great story, but there may have been too much of a good thing this time.

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  2. You're not the first one to mention that this wasn't up to his usual standards. How disappointing.

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    1. Kathy - Even a Lamb novel that is not his best, is still better than no Lamb novel at all.

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  3. This book of Wally's left me rather cold. I agree, I much prefer one of his earlier works such asI Know This Much Is True or She's Come Undone.

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    1. Bellezza - I loved both of those books, too!

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  4. Claire's!! My very New Yorky freshman roommate's parents took us there on one of my first days of college, because they wanted falafel, which I had never heard of so I was a little scared. But it was OK. (I've also just read that Pepe's Pizza is opening a branch in Boston.)

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    1. Audrey - Claire's certainly is a New Haven landmark. I was a little uncertain the first time I ate there, too, but ended up going back again and again. Pepe's in Boston??? Wow.

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  5. Every time I see a review of this book, I am reminded of the fact that I have it and I haven't read it yet. I feel bad about that too because I was so excited about getting a review copy but then I fell into that funk and lost sight of it. I am going to read it soon, even though the reviews have not been stellar.

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    1. Ti - It's still a good book, just not the stellar novel I was expecting... although I have heard that the audio version is outstanding.

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  6. Thanks for your candid review JoAnn. I am not familiar with Wally Lamb's works. I'm sorry you did not enjoy this one as much as others.

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    1. Pat - If you ever decide to read Lamb, I would recommend starting with one of his earlier books.

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  7. This is another author I haven't read yet, but when I get around to him, I'll take your advice above! Which do you think is the best introduction to his work?

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    1. Lisa - It has been many years since I read Lamb's earliest work, so it's difficult for me to compare them now. I loved them all and would read whichever one most appeals to you.

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  8. I have not read Lamb but will by pass this one when I do. Felt like you needed a shower says a lot!

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    1. Peggy - Yes, I think it would be better to start with one do his earlier books...this will not be a favorite.

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  9. That is disappointing that it didn't live up to his standard :( My book club is reading it in a couple of months, and I've ordered the monstrosity of an audio to get through it. I'll keep my expectations in check.

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    1. Sandy - I've hear good things about the audio production and think I would have enjoyed it much more if I'd listened. Will be curious to see what you think.

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  10. Oh so very dark and no laughs at all in this one. I liked the writing enough to read more Lamb but there is no way to "like" this book with no one in it to care about.

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    1. Lisa - That sums it up pretty well ...hope you decide to read one of his earlier novels.

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  11. It's always so disappointing when a favorite author doesn't quite live up to our expectations. I think a lot of people felt that way about the newest Amy Tan book, too.

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    1. Anbolyn - I've read some of those reviews, too, and have decided to pass on Tan's latest.

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  12. I haven't read anything by Wally Lamb yet. I guess I'll start with one of his earlier ones!

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    1. Laurie C. - Lamb is such a great storyteller. All of his earlier books are wonderful!

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  13. This is on my list, but maybe I should start my Wally Lamb reading with The Hour I First Believed or I Know This Much is True--intriguing story, and great review.

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