Mindy's Reviews > The Hour I First Believed

The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
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Nov 27, 2008

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bookshelves: library-book, fiction
Read in November, 2008

The Hour I First Believed? By Wally Lamb? Yeah, I read it. Hey, I didn't say it was great or anything. In fact, it seems like Mr. Lamb was really inspired by that show. Law and Order? Yeah, you know the one where they use crappy dialog to push forward bizarre plot points and explain complex technical stuff so the audience doesn't feel dumb cause they're not lawyers? Even though real people probably wouldn't talk like that in real life? Yeah, it's kinda like that in some ways. (You know, I felt totally validated by the couple of direct Law and Order references after I first made this observation.) The tone was often grating. Lacking in eloquence. Know what I mean?

This book is about the Columbine High School massacre, Hurricane Katrina, domestic and sexual abuse, adultery, the Iraq War, drug addiction, alcoholism, child abduction, a women's prison, mummified babies, Mark Twain, a miraculous Mary statuette in a Catholic bakery, post traumatic stress disorder, Nikola Tesla, stroke victims, cameos from both of Lamb's previous novels, brain aneurysms, 19th century abolitionism, vehicular manslaughter, enough genealogy to make the Mormon Church drool, and characters named Ulysses and Velvet.

So you might think the only thing missing was the kitchen sink, right? Wrong. It's lacking in a few major ways: not nearly enough UFOs, vampires, werewolves, subtlety, or sense of irony. It could also have used a strong, heavy-handed editor to reign in Lamb's rambling, messy prose, pointless character back stories, diary entries, and a laughably bad and unfortunately lengthy women's studies dissertation prospectus.

But you see, somewhere in this sprawling tome there's a really great book. Lamb knows how to jerk tears, set a scene, create suspense, elicit empathy for his characters, and provoke a few thoughts. Unfortunately, he goes off the deep end in melodrama, tragedy, and annoying tangents.

And yet, like Oprah, I still have a soft spot in my heart for good ole Wally Lamb and his writing. This book is so bad, it's actually kinda good.
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08/09 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Stephanie (last edited Dec 10, 2008 08:37PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Stephanie I've been reading a lot of reviews to try and put my finger on what, exactly, it is that makes this book inferior to the first two books. Your review gets it pretty darn right.

Was Dolores Kitchen supposed to be Dolores from She's Come Undone? I didn't catch that during my read. If so, she kind of got a shabby deal with Alfie, huh?

Yeah, a heavy handed editor might've done well to extract the great book out of this merely good one. Wally Lamb is one of my favorite authors. But this book lost a lot of points for me by including the Birdsey twins. I felt kind of bad that Lamb didn't feel like this book could stand on its own.

I love Lamb, I really do, he seems like an absolutely great guy. And he has some very strong storytelling gifts. I hope he tries again, soon.

message 2: by M (new) - rated it 2 stars

M I second all of that, and the 'this one time? you know? like when I was trying to engage the reader but made every character sound incredibly dumb? and annoying? what was I saying again?' stuff was super irritating. And his grown men characters need to stop sounding like their students.

message 3: by Liz (new) - rated it 1 star

Liz Bromley I third your review. I am about 200 pages into this book and it is not grabbing me AT ALL even though his first two novels are very beloved to me. I would not have thought Wally Lamb capable of writing a book I wouldn't like. But I think I will stop reading now after hearing that it doesn't get any better than this.

Greg Dude you said it. This book was all over the place. This is actually the only Wally Lamb book I have read. I got through it, but I'm not exactly looking for the next one too bad.

Erin Hansen I really enjoyed she's come undone but I'm having a hard time getting through this one.

Lora You got it. Lamb is a NYT best selling author? Whoa. Hard to believe. Shall I try any of his other books?

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