I forced my eyelids to stay open last night about 15 pages more than they really wanted to, so that I could finish my book:
It took me about two months to read this novel - not bad considering I only read before bed, and average likely 10-20 pages per night.
I’d like this post to be more of a book discussion in tone, than a book review. For that reason, I’ll give you a potential spoiler alert. Now, I’m not going to give away the ending or anything, but I am going to discuss plot developments, themes, characters, and personal likes and dislikes. So, if you have intentions of reading the book (and you should!), maybe skip this post?? (haha, what kind of blogger asks readers to NOT read!?!). If the book doesn’t interest you OR if you have already read it, please join me!…
Full disclosure: I’m a huge Wally Lamb fan. Back in this post, I listed “I Know This Much Is True” as one of the Top Five reads of my entire life. “She’s Come Undone,” which I read immediately after finishing I Know This Much Is True, also completely captivated me. Wally Lamb’s novels stay in my mind long after I finish reading – John Irving is another writer whose works affects me in this way.
Right from page one, The Hour I First Believed captivated me. Caelum Quirk is our protagonist, and the novel is written in first-person narrative (my favourite type). We quickly get a sense of the type of personality he is, thanks to Mr Lamb’s insertion of background details, and from Caelum’s present-time inner discourse. I can’t say I loved, admired or respected Caelum throughout the novel: true to his sirname, he does have quirks and shortcomings, weaknesses and downfalls. This is unusual in a novel; many times an author wants his readers to feel a kinship, and almost a celebrity-like devotion to the primary characters. I didn’t mind that I didn’t adore Caelum, though – it just made the story all the more life-like.
We begin our story in Colorado, and the Columbine shootings figure prominently in the plot development…for the first part of the book. Prior to beginning my reading, I was expecting that the entire novel would revolve around this major real-life tragedy; however, this event serves onlt as the impetus for what unfolds in the rest of the novel.
Caelum’s wife, Maureen, would be our second major character. Maureen, hidden in a cupboard, survives the rampage at the school on that tragic day but is forever colored by the effects of her trauma. The entire plot of the book spools off of this life-changing event.
Mr Lamb is a master of weaving together multiple plot lines, and at integrating new characters, weaving them into the storyline. This novel is a complexly layered tapestry of events, generations, characters. At various points, Caelum disappears from the narative, and other characters take over as the primary plot-advancers. This writing structure enhances the intrigue of the novel.
As you can tell (!), I feel like I could write a full university dissertation on the major themes and characters’ psychological profilings. Maybe some day
when I have a creative blogging mental block I’ll return to one theme or character and discuss it more thoroughly. For now, let’s close with a few highlights and shortcomings:
~ the plot development is absolutely brilliant.
~ I appreciated the twinning of Caelum’s college course on Greek mythology that he teaches, as a mirror to his own epic tale of self-discovery.
~ I loved how characters like Velvet and Alphonse appear, disappear, reappear throughout the course of the story.
~ the portrayal of Maureen’s post-traumatic stress disorder seemed completely real, to me.
~ I did not so much enjoy the inclusion of Lizzy Popper…these chapters did not hold my attention as much as the real-time portions of the novel. All of the storylines involving Caelum’s ancestors did not captivate me as much as the rest of the novel.
~ **The ending is weak. Period. I strongly feel that Mr Lamb took the easy way out, wrapping up the story in a too convenient fashion. While Caelum’s life is not at all “…and he lived happily ever after,” the story does end too *nicely.* Given the twists and turns that we have already experienced with Caelum, the ending is just too neat. Very disappointing.
If you have read the novel, I especially would love to hear your thoughts on the book’s concluding pages.
It’s been more than 10 years since Mr Lamb last published a novel. It’s obvious that our author poured heart and soul into composing this oeuvre. It’s a masterpiece in terms of literature. I do hope that this is not the final piece in Mr Lamb’s fiction-writing career. He is a true artist with the written word.
What’s next on my reading list???! Well, let’s see what’s on my bedside table…I have two choices from books gifted to me at Christmas:
More highly anticipated fiction…
I do believe I’ll dive right in to Freedom. Chelsea will travel better on the plane to Aruba! So my goal will be to complete Freedom by the beginning of March – “good luck with that!”