Julia's Reviews > The Hour I First Believed

The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
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's review
Aug 07, 09

it was amazing
bookshelves: contemporary-fiction, historical-fiction, literary-ficton, school-shootings, best-book-i-read-in-2009
Read in August, 2009

This is the fifth novel I’ve read about Columbine and it’s the best. It’s about what happened on April 20, 1999 but even more it’s about how one goes on afterward for the survivors. “A woman who surrenders her freedom need not surrender her dignity.” His grandmother, great grandmother and aunt’s work- farm/ prison for women, his wife’s being sexually assaulted by her father as an 11 year old,(‘but he never touched me!’) his father’s alcoholism and suicide: Caelum Quirk wasn’t well and was complex before Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris came to school with rifles and bombs where he taught English and his wife Maureen was a nurse. Maureen hid in a cabinet in the library during the shootings and can’t function afterward, gets addicted to drugs, they move back to Connecticut and the farm surrounded by the jail-- and then things really get bad for Maureen and Caelum. Caelum teaches a course on the Hero’s Journey at a community college and learns as much about it in teaching it and living it as his students do.

Oh and I loved all this history, his great grandmother's letters and diaries, her need to make the world a better place. And that for a time, his grandmother succeeded. His tenant's discovering of the history he couldn't be bothered with, his aunt's and family's secrets, which were literal skeletons in the closet.

“April 20, 1999. In the days, weeks, months and years, now since they opened fire, I have searched where I could for the whys, hows and whether- or- nots of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold’s rampage. They had been my students first, but I became theirs, stalking them so that I might rescue my wife from the aftermath of what they’d done. On that day, Maureen had escaped execution by opening a cabinet door and entering a maze –a many corridored prison whose four outer walls were fear, anger, guilt, and grief. And because I was powerless to retrieve her –because I, too, entered the labyrinth and became lost – my only option was to find its center, confront the two- headed monster who waited for me there, and murder it. Murder the murderers, who had already murdered themselves. You see what a puzzler it was? What a network of dead ends? Like I said, I was lost.”

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