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The Laments

3.56  ·  Rating Details ·  640 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
Meet the Laments—the affably dysfunctional globetrotting family at the center of George Hagen’s exuberant debut novel.

Howard is an engineer who dreams of irrigating the Sahara and lives by the motto “Laments move!” His wife Julia is a fiery spirit who must balance her husband’s oddly peripatetic nature with unexpected aspirations of her own. And Will is the “waif with a pa
Paperback, 400 pages
Published July 12th 2005 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2004)
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Sharon Watkins
Aug 15, 2012 Sharon Watkins rated it it was amazing
Will belongs to a family that moves. A lot. It is what the Laments do. They have moved from South Africa to Bahrain to Southern Rhodesia to England and then to New Jersey. His father is talking about moving on to Australia or maybe New Zealand, always looking for that perfect place where he will be able to realize his dreams. But for Will, it means he never feels like he belongs anywhere. And sometimes he wonders if he really belongs in this family, with his wild twin brothers, his permanently d ...more
Jun 30, 2007 Patty rated it liked it
For a long time I didn't think I liked this book. It seemed too light, no real substance. I kept waiting for some major, tragic event to occur. (That shows what kind of books I've been reading lately!) Eventually the characters and the story grew on me, especially the main character, Will, who is a quiet, serious boy who was switched at birth and doesn't know it. Throughout the book the Lament family travels, always in search of a fresh start, a better job, and a better life. Each new home bring ...more
Michael Bohli
Aug 16, 2016 Michael Bohli rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
George Hagen versucht in "The Laments" (oder unter dem eher falsch gewählten Titel "Die Zöglinge des Doktor Underberg") gar nicht, seine Geschichte ernst und realistisch darzulegen. Die Ereignisse im Leben der Familie Lament sind zwar meist tragisch und jeder Umzug in ein neues Land bringt weitere Probleme, der Schreibstil von Hagen bietet aber einen lockeren und warmherzigen Umgang mit diesen komplizierten Situationen.

Das erleichtert dem Leser, diesen Abenteuerroman voller Entdeckergeist und Au
Sep 27, 2015 Holly rated it liked it
Shelves: own
I expected to enjoy this book a lot as Will is very relatable to me; having lived in three different continents myself and having moved a lot. However this book was hard to concentrate on; I continuously avoided reading it. I don't know what else to say other than that it was a pretty good read but the writing style maybe didn't draw me into the story as well as I would have liked.
Jan 27, 2013 Dayna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a lovely, heartbreaking and funny novel this is! Many thanks to my friend Sharon for reading this book and sharing her review. I loved it.
Jan 15, 2009 Colleen rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
This novel tracking the lives of a globe-trotting family paints a poignant picture of the expat lifestyle and the desperate quest to belong. Julia and Howard Lament are both trying to overcome the shortcomings of their upbringing, and find in each other all that they ever wanted. When their first bouncing happy baby is kidnapped by a troubled young woman in Rhodesia, they find themselves adopting her sickly premature son. Thus begins a life of uncertainty for both Julia and Howard as well as the ...more
Apr 04, 2008 Alisa rated it liked it
George Hagen writes good prose, and this story is of a family that actually sticks together, bucking the trend that tragedy always leads to alienation, affairs, divorce, and rebirth with a new relationship.

It has some story flaws, to be sure, and the chapters are short and jump around quite a bit, but if you don't mind that (I don't) and you are interested in a story about people who can never quite belong where they choose to be, it's a decent read. The exploration of what you take with you whe
Nate's Bookgroup
Jan 03, 2010 Nate's Bookgroup rated it it was ok
The Laments was about a south african family who move from continent to continent every time things get a little rough where they live. It was more character driven than plot driven. Rather funny in spots, but not a lot of substance. It had a lot to say about the sacrifices we make every day to maintain relationships, but it did so in such a silly manner you couldn't really take what was being said seriously. There were some great moments when the family moved to America and felt obligated to pu ...more
Sep 25, 2009 Mari rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
This is an interesting book that takes you through the trials and tribulations of the Lament family. Living in Rhodesia at the beginning of the book, the Laments are struck by tragedy. Making the best of a sorrowful situation, they continue to thrive in this African country. When the battles over apartheid increase, Howard Lament decides it's time to move his family. As he says on numerous occasions, "We're Laments and Laments travel." Travel they do. The books takes you along on their journeys ...more
N W James
Apr 26, 2007 N W James rated it it was ok
Shelves: bookgrouppick
The Laments was about a south african family who move from continent to continent every time things get a little rough where they live. It was more character driven than plot driven. Rather funny in spots, but not a lot of substance. It had a lot to say about the sacrifices we make every day to maintain relationships, but it did so in such a silly manner you couldn't really take what was being said seriously. There were some great moments when the family moved to America and felt obligated to pu ...more
Oct 15, 2007 Anne rated it really liked it
This book tells the story of Howard and Julia Lament, originally from Southern Rhodesia. When their newborn son is stolen from the hospital, they reluctantly take another couple's child (Will) to raise as their own. They then proceed to move. From Africa to England to America - because, after all, that's what Lament's do. As Julia's irritating mother nags her from thousands of miles away, she gives birth to twin terrors and stands up for racial and gender equality. There is no real ultimate purp ...more
Dec 08, 2014 Holly rated it liked it
Shelves: audio
This is an odd sort of book. This story follows the Lament family and their trials and tribulations throughout their life. We first meet Howard and Julia. We find out about their past and what lead them to become married. Soon after Julia is with child and gives birth. However, trouble and tragedy strikes the Laments. This will be the first unfortunate event that will follow Howard and Julia throughout their life time. Soon the years go by, the family moves from country to country, and we get to ...more
Jennifer Hendzlik
Sep 12, 2012 Jennifer Hendzlik rated it liked it
"Laments travel."

The Laments are a dysfunctional but completely likable family from Rhodesia that find themselves living in Africa, England and America as they struggle with small issues such as identity, race, prejudices and tragedies. How they fall apart and put themselves together again is the core of this tome.

I am still wrapping my head around this book. There was nothing about it that grabbed me so strong I couldn't put the book down. But, at the same time I continued to pick it up and re
Haythem Bastawy
Apr 22, 2013 Haythem Bastawy rated it really liked it
I liked the Laments, book and family; their travels, adventures and relationships. The South-African family are always on the move, in search for the perfect place and the perfect people. Refusing to accept bigotry and amorality is always their reason to move, and although they come across as righteous in a semi-prophetic way this righteousness always entertains the reader with humourous conversations and exciting explorations of new places.

The book is very different in its plot and unusual in
Chris Burland
Jul 20, 2011 Chris Burland rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was one of those $5 books I took a flyer on, you know the situation - a new book by an unfamiliar author. I found it on the reduced table at Chapters a year ago.

It's a quirky book about a nomadic family, odd characters story sad but uplifting. Written with a touch of humour and pathos combined. It's been a couple of years since I read it. Don't remember much about the plot.

I tried his book, Tom Bedlam I think its called and couldn't get in it. Stopped reading it after 50 pages.

Jun 23, 2008 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Shelves: fiction
As other reviewers have suggested, the Laments are aptly named. Tragedy visits the family frequently, but it is less of a jolt to the readers than it might be, thanks to Hagen's light touch.

It may be that Hagen's subjects evoke more sympathy for their disasters since the source of their troubles is typically not a personal defect or weakness, but the collusion of external racism, greed, callous speculation, or misinformation. Watch for one character in particular to shed naivete late in the book
May 31, 2011 Holly rated it really liked it
The writing really makes these characters come alive and feel so real, so human. Each leg of their journey draws you into their new world and every nuance of their experiences feel completely authentic. These characters and their lives are far from perfect which is refreshing in a way. But the events of their story are sometimes so outrageously tragic that this book wasn't always to read and I found myself needing an emotional break from it from time to time. I love this author's voice and style ...more
Jun 27, 2015 Lesley-Anne rated it did not like it
Shelves: can-t-finish
Pick up this book and you will definitely lament ever second you devote to it. Now I have to figure out how to shake off the lost and adrift feelings I've accrued over the 287 pages I read. I couldn't finish it, it was too tortuous. In fact, the last 187 pages I often just skimmed or even flicked past, particularly the ones that contained the meaningless tales of stupidity from the Laments' nightmare children. I don't care where The Laments go from page 287; my only concern is how to retrieve th ...more
Oct 19, 2010 Heather rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
This was a really nice story about a boy who is switched at birth and grows up feeling a little out of place. At first it seems that he is the one sad character in a very happy family, but as time goes on, it appears that he is the most sane member of his adoptive family. It's really nice how instead of being given a place in the family, he effectively earns his place by keeping them all together, such as they are. This book had some rough bits but I really enjoyed it overall.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 24, 2013 Stephanie rated it really liked it
I really liked the characters in this book and thoroughly enjoyed following the Laments on their life travels. I can relate to the way Hagan conveys Howard's desire to frequently start afresh in some new place, and how this impacts upon the rest of his family. The characters feel warming and real, you keep wanting to go back to them, and hope that everything will turn out alright for them in the end.
Dec 08, 2009 Cat rated it did not like it
Shelves: escapism, meh
A thoroughly disappointing bargain-bin pick. Hagen's novel reads like a paean to the burgeoning sexuality of his adolescence, with awkward fondlings and couplings every three pages. His politics are trite and his portrait of ex-pat Rhodesians living in the US is shallow and one-dimensional. The ending is a triumph of loose ends being tied up in each other too neatly and too completely -- I finished the book with a sense of irritated disbelief.
May 31, 2010 Ala rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a story of an unusual family with a few secrets and several tragedies. The father has a traveling streak, not being able to be in the same place for more than a few years, and this is merely one of the things that takes a toll on the family. It's a pretty heartbreaking somber tale, but one that's extremely well-written.
Apr 28, 2009 Chris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
Not a particularly well written book. Consensus of book club was he tried to put too many ideas into the book and didnt give them all a conclusion.
Personally, I only began to like it when the family moved to their last house in America. The storyline seemed to settle down a bit and you began to care a bit more for the characters.
Jul 25, 2011 Tori added it
2009-This story is a family saga that focuses on the Laments, who are changed forever after the birth of their first child. As the family grows, the Laments move from continent to continent, but misfortune always seems to be right behind them. This was a quick read, and I enjoyed it, although the story was rather sad. I'd be interested to see what else the author has written.
Ronald Wise
Aug 26, 2011 Ronald Wise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A novel about a family that relocated several times: South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, Bahrain, England, and New Jersey. I came to know and appreciate the mother and oldest son, and felt sad after reading the last page. There were some odd and surprising twists in the plot. I learned of this one from librarian Nancy Pearl's radio book review.
Mar 09, 2010 Melissa rated it really liked it
A wonderful portrait of an intelligent, slightly nomadic family. I wouldn't call it a light, happy read, but it isn't overly heavy either and it's a quick read. I loved the characters, especially the kids. It may not be a perfectly written novel, but I was very happy I took the time to read it.
Dec 10, 2007 Lori rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book - the first time I listened to it on audio CD, but this time I read it for June's book club. It was one of those books that didn't get bogged down in itself although it easily could have.
Bookmarks Magazine

Like John Irving and Anne Tyler's novels, wacky characters navigate (or merely hang on) Hagen's grand roller coaster of life. Certainly, the Laments experience the hilarious and the horrendous, from a kidnapping to a dismemberment, but life's not as hopeless

Feb 25, 2008 Kay rated it really liked it
Will Lament is secretly adopted by Howard and Julia when their baby dies. This is a family who move a lot in search of happiness. Trying to find his place in the world, his family and his parents' affection Will is painfully funny and sad. Loved it.
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