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She's Come Undone

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In this extraordinary coming-of-age odyssey, Wally Lamb invites us to hitch a wild ride on a journey of love, pain, and renewal with the most heartbreakingly comical heroine to come along in years.

Meet Dolores Price. She's 13, wise-mouthed but wounded, having bid her childhood goodbye. Stranded in front of her bedroom TV, she spends the next few years nourishing herself with the Mallomars, potato chips, and Pepsi her anxious mother supplies. When she finally orbits into young womanhood at 257 pounds, Dolores is no stronger and life is no kinder. But this time she's determined to rise to the occasion and give herself one more chance before she really goes under.

465 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published August 24, 1992

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About the author

Wally Lamb

15 books7,369 followers
Wally Lamb is the author of She's Come Undone, The Hour I First Believed, and I Know This Much Is True. Two were featured as selections of Oprah's Book Club. Lamb is the recipient of the Connecticut Center for the Book's Lifetime Achievement Award, the Connecticut Bar Association's Distinguished Public Service Award, the Connecticut Governor's Art Award, the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, the 1999 New England Book Award for Fiction, and the Missouri Review William Peden Fiction Prize.

He was the director of the Writing Center at the Norwich Free Academy, Norwich, Connecticut from 1989-1998, and an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Connecticut’s English Department. He holds a B.A. in Education and an M.A. in English from the University of Connecticut and an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College.

Lamb has served as a volunteer facilitator for a writing workshop at the York Correctional Institute, a maximum-security prison for women, in Niantic, Connecticut since 1999. He has edited two collections of autobiographical essays entitled Couldn't Keep It to Myself: Testimonies from Our Imprisoned Sisters (2003) and I'll Fly Away (2007).

Lamb currently lives in Mansfield, Connecticut with his wife, Christine Lamb, and their three sons, Jared, Justin and Teddy.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 11,022 reviews
Profile Image for Kathleen.
27 reviews20 followers
September 26, 2007
This book sucked. A) What the hell does a MAN know about writing about a fat girl's life? NOTHING. Thus making whole book wrong. B) Obviously didn't research anything about the main character, places her in situations she would NOT be in at the weight prescribed. What did he actually ASK WOMEN what they weigh? Guess what moron, they LIE. A 200lb woman can still fit in a car, loser. I could go on forever. The only reason I even read this book was because I forgot a book on an airplane and was offered this. When choosing between reading ANYTHING and watching yet ANOTHER Julie Roberts movie in-flight, I will chose the book. I should've watched the stupid movie. I want those precious moments of my life back. The only reason I will give this one star is because it has accomplished the act of being shaped like a book.
Profile Image for Colin.
710 reviews21 followers
July 12, 2007
Yes. I hated this book. I read it about ten years ago, and it pissed me off. To this day I refer to it as "that goddamn whale book." What repelled me then is that the main character, a fat girl, bonds with a real fucking whale and it's supposed to be Deep and Meaningful. "Yes, Mr. Whale. I am a fat girl. I, too, am a whale. We understand one another." Please. Try harder, Wally. Also, the fat girl hates herself so has a creepily awkward lesbian hookup with a janitor and subsequently kills said janitor's fish. I read that part as weird homophobic classist shit, at least back then, and that's the impression that will stand, because I'm never reading it again.

I don't know why everyone was beside themselves about Lamb as a man writing a female POV, either. Who fucken cares? How come no one makes a huge fuss like that when a woman writes a male POV? This book is so annoying. Argh.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sammy.
207 reviews895 followers
June 12, 2007
I have to wonder if any of Lamb's children were teenage girls while he was writing this novel. If not, then I'm sure his wife had her brain picked apart to help him write this novel. Why? Lamb so captures the teenage girl spirit in this book (or at least the spirit of a crushed and ruined teenage girl) that it's hard to believe this wasn't written by a woman.

Delores's story is moving and has something we can all relate to, especially those of us who have ever gone through a trauma or depression. But one thing that's different about Delores is that you can't pity her. She doesn't want that, and Lamb has not written her that way. At times you find yourself wanting to scream at her to wake up and do something!

With the exception of Delores's college "companions" most all the other characters she encounters are fully developed and interesting. They all appear in Delores's life for a reason, enriching her and teaching her a lesson, though not always a lesson Delores learns from.

I don't feel that this is a book that I can criticize this book as much as I should. She's Come Undone is for anyone struggling in their life. In a way it will help you realize that you're not alone, other people have been through shit too, and you can overcome it and be stronger in the end. And even if you haven't been through anything difficult (which I find hard to believe) you should still read this book, because it's still a really good book.

And now, I'm going to end this because I have forgotten what else I want to say. I suppose I've said enough though, and I hope you will read this book if you haven't or tell me what you thought if you have.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,217 reviews9,894 followers
March 13, 2022
You can skip this one. If you get the talking book version on cds, you can skip it across the surface of the nearest large body of water you can find, until it sinks. As it sinks you might hear a voice sounding like Oprah saying " this is the beautiful, unconventional and ultimately life glug affirming glug story of a woman glug glug who endures glug glerg every tribulation glag glag which Wally Lamb could think glug of having studied daytime gluuuurgggg soaps for a year......glgg...rape....ggggg....self-harm......ggg...mental hospital....ggg......"

until finally, all that can be heard is the tweeting of an odd looking bird in a nearby bush. Its curiously unmusical trill sounds like

Profile Image for Liz.
3 reviews1 follower
December 18, 2007
Let me put it this way: if this book were wine, it wouldn't even be Boone's Farm. 'Nuff said.
Profile Image for Melissa McAllister.
13 reviews12 followers
October 7, 2007
This is one of my all time favorite books. I just recently reread the book and fell in love all over again. It had been some time since I read the book and felt I should refresh my memory since I recommend it to so many.

She’s Come Undone is the story of a troubled teenage girl growing into a woman, her struggles and the ways in which she decides to cope with them. She puts on a tough exterior but inside is as soft as the marshmallows she finds comfort in.

Dolores is plagued with heartache, hurt and uncertainty. As a teenager it seems that every person she allows close to her hurts her. She withdraws herself inward and finds comfort in the television and food, losing all interest in the outside world. By doing so she creates more problems for herself, mentally and physically.

When she heads off to college, extremely overweight, she finds out how cruel the world can really be, which sends her even farther down the spiral. Eventually she hits rock bottom. After a couple of years of treatment she decides to create her own destiny. To take control of her life and make it what she wants.

At first things were working out for her and it seemed she had the life she always longed for. We all know that it never happens that way, there is always a snafu, and things do go south for Dolores. But you know what, it just raises her higher. She finally finds herself and makes peace with her past.

There is no need for you to have experienced all the hurt, heartache and tragedy as Dolores to empathize with her, all you have to be is a woman. The most remarkable aspect of the book is that it was not written by a woman. The very first time I read the book I kept checking the cover to make sure it was a man that was writing it. Some how, and I am not sure how, Wally Lamb has totally tapped into how it feels to be a teenage girl, an abused girl, a girl coming into a woman, a woman having her heart broken for the first time by the man of her dreams, and a woman making it on her own after all of these things.

Truly an incredible book. Buy it for all the women in your life.
Profile Image for Sofia.
93 reviews25 followers
May 25, 2012
If there was a way to give this book 10 stars, I would. The main character in this book, Dolores Price, has become one of my top five favorite protagonists. I finished the book a few hours ago, and am still absorbing it. Quite honestly, I am semi-baffled by the negative reviews of this novel. I say "semi" because I noticed a pattern of the negative reviews. Women complaining that a "man" was writing about the experience of a young girl, or one very angry reviewer "hating" this book because what did the author know about being fat and HOW DARE he refer to Dolores as obese (Dolores, at 13 weighed 250 pounds, I'm sorry but that IS obese). And, excuse me, but since when is the rule that male authors can only write about men and female authors about women?

WIth that said, yes, this book was heavy. Lots of very very awful and horrible things happen to Dolores as a child AND as an adult. There is domestic abuse, rape, death, compulsive eating, AIDS, abortion and suicide as just some of the things that cross Dolores's path in her journey. This is not a book for people who expect a happily-ever-after ending. One reviewer stating "everything in this book was depressing". If that is what you get from this book, then you have not dug deep enough to understand her. As a child, she used food to hide her anguish and pain, and getting raped at 13 years old jumpstarts more horrible events and behaviors. After her mother dies and Dolores makes the very brave decision to go away to college, a much older female friend seduces her and pretty much takes advantage of Dolores, and they have sex. Again, a lesbian reviewer, took offense to the way the author chose to portray a gay woman. As a lesbian, and strong feminist, I took no offense at all and I think if you are someone who is not looking to compare your life with Dolores's, then you will love and appreciate this book. Dolores is funny, smart, and at the end of her story has not only faced her demons, but smacked them around a few times and sent them flying. I was so proud of her for who she had become and how she had healed!

This book is about a JOURNEY, male author or not, it depicts a young woman's turbulent life experiences and her triumphs as well. She is strong, beautiful, funny, smart, and loving. This novel will stay with me for a very long time and has reminded me of how fragile relationships are, especially our relationships with ourselves. We ABSOLUTELY have to love who we are in order to love someone else. This was an amazing story.
Profile Image for Rachel.
63 reviews14 followers
April 26, 2008
I'm amazed by how many people hated this book. I had mixed feelings about it. Yes, the characters and situations were godawful, and at times it was more than a little contrived. A lot of people on this forum said it was hard to believe that so many horrible things could happen to one person - that I don't think is true. I have known people who have had that many horrible things happen to them. But some of the situations were pretty far-fetched. But I remember finding this book utterly fascinating and being unable to put it down. I'm not even sure why - it was such a horrifying book, but I guess it had a "train wreck" quality to it. I still remember this book so well even though I read it years ago. Even though I didn't relate to it personally that much, something about that book just stayed with me long after I read it.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,535 reviews9,950 followers
January 1, 2020
This was my first reread of 2020. I deleted my old review. This is the first book I’m cleaning house with. The first time around I gave it 5 stars but it’s dropped to a 2 star. Things are just different now, I’m different and if a book has stopped moving or exciting me in some way, it’s going to the trade in box for someone else out there.

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Profile Image for Claire Greene.
23 reviews66 followers
March 24, 2008
I hate this book. Let me just get that out of the way first!

I also have to admit to having personal knowledge of the author - which in no way colors my opinion of this book. Mr. Lamb was a writing teacher at my high school in CT and actually helped me quite a bit in writing my college application essays. I got in to every school I applied for - even my reach school - and I am positive that the essay I wrote was the biggest tipping point. My essay was really good and it was wholly because of Mr. Lamb and his suggestions, pointers and all around encouragement. As a person, Mr. Lamb is wonderful and I will always remember him with high praise.

Which is part of the reason why I wanted to love this book so much. I loved Mr. Lamb. He was the teacher all the students wanted to work with and to have a book of his published! And on Oprah!!! So I picked it up and was so excited - I think I read it in two days or something.

That build up may explain my intense dislike for the book now. Too much hype to live up to. Regardless, I hated the main character. She was a "sad sack" type. Very much a Charlie Brown type - the character who is very nice, NEVER gets a break, is inexplicably constantly treated like crap by everyone around them without deserving it, and makes the trials of Job look like a tropical vacation. After while, I have to say - enough is enough!!! The book became incredibly predictable - not conventionally, i.e. boy meets girl, etc - but rather, if there was a situation described and you imagined the worst possible outcome, that is what would happen! Imagine yourself baking a cake. What's the worst that could happen? Burn the cake moments before the birthday party? Amateur. No, the correct answer is have the gas flowing but the pilot light go out until a spark happens when you slip on the floor in non-skid slippers causing a gigantic explosion that kills the neighbors and innocent children who happened to be arriving for the party at that exact moment but blowing you out the window to safety where you land relatively unharmed but now burned with guilt for the rest of your life. Oh yeah, and the neighborhood now hates you and has voted you out of the community so you are homeless. Now you get the idea. That is what this book reads like - page after page after page of it.

I hated the character (unbelievably wimpy), the story (the ridiculous situations and absurd outcomes), and the plot (which meandered and was like walking with a 2 year old - you had to stop and fully investigate anything shiny before being allowed to move on).

So if you are only somewhat depressed but not quite suicidal yet, this is the book for you. Everyone else should stay away in droves.

If you ever get a chance to meet the actual author, please do - you'll come out better for it.

And my last little comment, try to never read a lesbian sex scene written by a former teacher and mentor. You can never look at him the same again! I am actually glad that I have not met him since because I don't know if I could look at him the same way!!
Profile Image for Tyler.
51 reviews3 followers
November 2, 2007
I really didn't like this book. It was recommended to me as an example of a man that could write with a womens voice. Nope. I didn't buy it. I also didn't buy his understanding of growing up as a fat girl. So Poo on you Mr. Lamb.
Here is a review by someone named Colin who I don't know but I completely agree with:
"Yes. I hated this book. I read it about ten years ago, and it pissed me off. To this day I refer to it as "that goddamn whale book." What repelled me then is that the main character, a fat girl, bonds with a real fucking whale and it's supposed to be Deep and Meaningful. "Yes, Mr. Whale. I am a fat girl. I, too, am a whale. We understand one another." Please. Try harder, Wally. Also, the fat girl hates herself so has a creepily awkward lesbian hookup with a janitor and subsequently kills said janitor's fish. I read that part as weird homophobic classist shit, at least back then, and that's the impression that will stand, because I'm never reading it again.

I don't know why everyone was beside themselves about Lamb as a man writing a female POV, either. Who fucken cares? How come no one makes a huge fuss like that when a woman writes a male POV? This book is so annoying. Argh."
Thank you Colin, well said.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews30 followers
October 2, 2021
She's Come Undone, Wally Lamb

She's Come Undone is the 1992 debut novel by Wally Lamb. She's Come Undone has been translated into eighteen languages.

She's Come Undone is the story of a troubled teenage girl growing into a woman, her struggles and the ways in which she decides to cope with them. In this engaging first novel, narrator Dolores Price recounts her life story from age four to age 40.

Wally Lamb has written his first novel in the arresting voice of Dolores Price, a 40-year-old woman who recounts in scrupulous detail her harrowing progress into adulthood.

In "She's Come Undone," an ambitious, often stirring and hilarious book, Mr. Lamb gives his vociferous heroine truly heroic proportions, in both the physical and the psychical sense.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز نخست ماه اکتبر سال 2008میلادی

عنوان: دو ل‍ورس‌؛ نویسنده: وال‍ی‌ ل‍م‍ب‌‏‫؛ مترجم: ن‍وش‍ی‍ن‌ ری‍ش‍ه‍ری‌؛ تهران، نقش و نگار، 1384؛ در 336ص؛ شابک 9646235921؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 20م

رمان «دولورس؛ دختر ناموفق»، نوشته «والی لمب» نویسنده ی «آمریكایی» است؛ «دولورس» شخصیت محوری این رمان از مشکلات خانوادگی بسیاری رنج میبرد ولی تلاش خستگی ناپذیری را برای رهایی از این مشکلات و آفرینش یک زندگی دیگر را برای خود آغاز میکند و...؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 09/07/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for JO D.
12 reviews6 followers
February 23, 2007
Wally Lamb is one of my favorite writers. This particular book is written in a woman’s prospective. Her name is Dolores. It starts out when she was a child; explain in details the experiences she has with her parents. Then it goes on to reveal situations about her father, her mother’s mental health issues and how the main character deals with these issues. She deals with them by eating so excessively that she gains 260lbs as a young adult. She is a bitter and smart mouthed teen who doesn’t want help from anyone and relies on only one person to talk to. Through out the book you get to learn what goes on inside of her head. You feel for her for all the things she has to go through. The book moves through college, she is then in a mental institution and while trying to get her life back in order she finds a man. You then get to learn about her relationship with this man. But it does not end there...
In whole, the book is a fantastic read. I would recommend this to Anyone. You will read it in one sitting.
Profile Image for David.
865 reviews1,339 followers
February 9, 2008
She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)

A week after finishing this book, I still have conflicting opinions. It’s hard to synthesize them into a coherent review, so I’m just going to summarize what I liked and disliked.

On the plus side:

Easy to read: The story is told as a first-person narrative by the main protagonist, Dolores. Though her actions can be exasperating to the point where you want to shake some sense into her, she is always engaging, keeping a sense of (sometimes gallows) humor as she recreates her story. And it’s impossible not to admire Lamb’s skill in writing from the perspective of an overweight, overwhelmed woman as he tracks her history over the 25-year span of the book.

Growth and development: It’s incremental, it’s painful, there is backsliding – but there is growth. The ending offers a measure of comfort, but to a degree that seems deliberately subdued – there is no fairy-tale ending here. Lamb is showing us that adversity can be overcome, but doing so is hard work. And don’t get too comfortable – any ground that you gain in life could be lost overnight. There is something completely admirable in the way that Dolores doesn’t simply buckle, but – against considerable odds – manages to reach a level of self-awareness that affords her a measure of contentment in her own skin

As against that:

Hard to read: For the same reasons that the book of Job is not your favorite book of the bible (If the book of Job is your favorite, either you need psychological counseling, or have evolved to a remarkably advanced spiritual state. Either way, you probably won’t get much from this review). The tribulations just keep coming. Guilt about parents divorcing? Daddy abandonment issues? That’s just the baseline. Let’s pile on a little molestation, rape, 150 or so excess pounds, several years in a psychiatric facility, peer rejection and gratuitous cruelty, marriage to a philandering narcissist, abortion, and the death of almost everyone dear to you. You can almost hear Satan betting with that dear old-Testament God. Dolores’s failure to conceive is almost a relief – at least we’re spared the prospect of a child-immolation scene.

Growth and development: Wait now. Didn’t I list this under the ‘things to like’? Well, yes I did. So sue me for also disliking it. Because there is that unavoidable Oprah sticker right on the cover of this book. And it’s completely obvious why – the kind of uplift that is doled out makes this book a shoo-in for Oprah-approval. But it’s hard not to feel that one is being emotionally manipulated throughout, on a grand scale. To which my – possibly irrational – response is “Dude, if you’re going to play the reader like a cheap violin, then at least have the decency to provide more of a feel-good ending than you do”.

Dead whale metaphors: Give me a break, Wally! Was this really necessary? Best you could come up with? Why not just club me over the head and have done with it?

And, if I were a lesbian, I think I’d be within my rights to be offended by this book.

You can tell, I’m all over the map where this book is concerned. Which means it got under my skin more than I might like to admit. Which is what allows it to keep its third star.

Profile Image for rachelle.
98 reviews14 followers
December 3, 2008
I hate this book so much it can change my opinion of you if you say you like it.

Bad things happen to girl, girl does SERIOUSLY RANDOM CRAP. Like, "Now that we've had sex, Random Lesbian, I would like to kill your fish."

Girls, especially the big, giant, fat ones, cannot control themselves or command their destiny. But they really dig whales! (Goldfish beware!)

Oh my God, I hate it.

Profile Image for Patrick.
267 reviews93 followers
July 15, 2008
Update: I found an old review I wrote about this book for an online book club I used to be in. I clearly hated it. Here it is, more or less in its entirety.

To be blunt, I didn't like it. It's hard to know where to begin when explaining my dislike for 'She's Come Undone.' Wally Lamb, to be sure, wrote very...believably. I felt like it was a girl writing. However, the fact of the matter is that I'm a man, and I have no idea how a woman thinks. Therefore, I'm clearly not the best judge of this.

My first problem was the paper-thin development of male characters in the story. Perhaps I'm being picky, but I thought all the male characters. In the best cases they had no depth. In the worst cases their actions didn't even make sense.

Let's first explore the "Daddy" character. He is a stock deadbeat dad. Not all that attentive or a good parent when he was around, and then he disappears. And when he does so, we are left to fill in the blanks with vague details of his life. He is remarried. He is divorced again. He is remarried again. He doesn't write. He makes empty promises. Blah blah blah. We can understand why Dolores is so angry with him, but we are given only a cursory glimpse to his emotions, what drives him. Towards the end of the novel his wife writes Dolores and tells her that he was "a good man." And it leaves Dolores to wonder, 'was he a good man?' This was a good device, because we are left to wonder as Dolores did. However, the fact remains that we were given very little of the character. He was a tool, a means to make Dolores what she grew into (quite literally). But "Daddy" is probably one of the better male characters. (A side note, and to answer Megan's question, I think it was a blatant device used by Lamb in having Dolores refer to her deadbeat father as "daddy" constantly. He was clearly, in my mind anyway, attempting to connect Dolores's father's leaving as the end of Dolores's innocence, the end of her childhood, as shortly after she was violated by Jack. And maybe that is truly how such a thing would happen. But, as useful a device as that may have been, I find it trite, because I cannot bring myself to believe that a young woman with so much hate towards her father that she would cuss him out at her mother's funeral and cut off all contact with him for her entire life would continue to refer to him as "daddy" throughout the course of her tormented life. But that's just my opinion.)

Thayer. A stock nice guy meant to contrast Jack and Dante. Beyond that, he really serves no purpose aside from offering Dolores a type of redemption.

Jack and Dante. Now, I feel that they were basically the same character. Which was appropriate, because they both did complete 180's in their personality. Someone in an earlier post mentioned that there were "clues" as to their true nature. With Jack, I disagree. It was complete bullshit.

First of all, all we were given of Jack was how wonderful he was. In fact, at the end the chapter in which we are introduced to Jack and his generically cute wife Dolores says the whole family fell in love with a couple. Which is true in a sense, in that Jack won the family over. But what of his wife? No one seemed to like her. Dolores's mother was fucking Jack, so clearly she didn't love his wife. And Dolores complains that his wife isn't good enough for Jack, that she is not pretty enough or some such nonsense. No, no, it was Jack they fell in love with. And initially you can see why. He is handsome and fun, very likable. But then he is completely different, and we are given no good reason why. He starts out like an all-American neighbor who suddenly devolves into a degenerate because, why, because he is giving Dolores rides home after school? Because his wife wanted to get pregnant? It didn't make sense. There were no hints at all until he started giving Dolores rides home after school and swearing and acting like a generally rude asshole. And to me that felt contrived, as if Lamb was saying, "see, it shouldn't be surprising that he is raping her. He swore and yelled at her in the car a few times! He's not the guy we all thought he was!"

But that's just it! Lamb sets Jack up as this great guy and then artificially tears him down. Jack didn't even feel like the caricature he was purported to be. It was like two different people, and the only common thread was that Dolores had a crush on him and he was called Jack.

Let us just take a moment to review Dante. We are clearly meant to draw parallels from Jack to Dante. Both were introduced to us as good men. Then they were arbitrarily turned into child molesters when the situation fit (i.e. when it would ruin Dolores's life). To be honest, the only thing that even hinted at what Dante would become when he was religious and vulnerable is the letter where he says he does not want to become a womanizer. But, in brief, he is a religious, vulnerable virgin as a young man and a verbally (and on one occasion, physically) abusive, arrogant, sex-obsessed adult.

And he decides that Dolores is the one from the get-go. Why? Mr. Wing (the landlord) mentions that he is quite the womanizer. The teacher at the dance alludes to the exotic women he used to date. He clearly gets off on young girls (as we see at the dance and his relationship with Sheila). But Dolores steps into his life, he beds her immediately and then, just as quickly gives up on all other women. Moves in with Dolores and eventually marries her. I realise that there are arguments for why this could happen (she's easy to live with as she just considers herself lucky to have him; but I find that bullshit because he clearly isn't intellectually stimulated by her, and I doubt he is intellectually stimulated by hot high school girls), in short, I'm not really buying them. They are not logical in life or the story. So, essentially, Dante is simply there to be the adult Jack--physically and emotionally raping Dolores until she is able to defend herself and leave. But he is not believable.

And finally, Dolores. I have so many questions. She gets fat and depressed for good reasons. Fine, all very well. I sympathize. College breaks her and she goes nuts, has a brief lesbian encounter (but, come on, what young girl doesn't experiment with that sort of thing in college? Am I right ladies?) and freaks out about it and, generally, her life. So she runs away, swims with a beached whale, goes crazy and ends up in a mental institute. And boy, does she go crazy. Biting her tongue til it bleeds? Mutalating herself in various ways? Why? I read that sort of thing and I was fucking shocked. I mean, she was depressed, sure, but why did she start mutalating herself? Because she was in a mental hospital? I don't buy it at all. I feel like it was simply stereotypical bullshit thrown out by Lamb for shock value, as if to say to the reader, "look....look what her life has done to her!" Ridiculous. In fact, I found the entire mental hospital to be a load of bullshit, from the "therapy" she alternately accepts and rejects (which she should have just outright rejected, because, maverick or no maverick, Dr. Shaw belonged in that hospital as a patient, not a doctor. That scene where he is talking to Dolores in the "womb" (pool) was just creepy. It made me uncomfortable.) to the way she leaves. Completely contrived. Why did she leave? Everything was going well, so she started "etch-a-sketching" (a clear connection to her mother and her painting, specifically the flying leg painting. Both are left of what you would expect, even in creative outlets) and then decided to abruptly abandon the therapy before completion due to some psychic. That was completely out of character, at least out of the character Lamb had fleshed out for us in the mental hospital. She was just starting to come around and be a functioning human being again, and she suddenly throws it all away because of some psychic? It didn't make sense, felt contrived, a plot device to keep the story moving and avoid it getting bogged down in the mental hospital.

So I feel like this is getting a little long, so I will skip ahead to what I consider the third part of Dolores's life, when she leaves Dante and moves back into her Grandmother's house. And I will skip most of that, because it was dull and uneventful (she puts her life back together, grand) and go to the part that stuck out for me the most. That was the contrived fight she has with Rita, where Rita falls down the stairs and ends up in the hospital. What the fuck was that all about? I mean, seriously, where did that come from? Everything is going great. Rita tells Dolores she should buy a car with her money, Dolores is leaning towards a satellite and big television. So she gets it. Fair enough? Apparently not. Apparently Lamb is angry that not enough people read these days (rightfully so, I would say, but that is beside the point) and continued his quest to make television out to be one of the main villains in Dolores life, by having the television lead her into another depression (which he lazily tries to attribute to sudden recurrent sad feelings about Dante, but it doesn't fly. We are basically left to assume that the TV just plain makes her lazy. Period.). And so Rita comes over and, apparently, yells that Dolores should have bought a car instead of a big TV, which leads Dolores to freak out and scream at her and Rita falls, and Dolores gets more depressed and starts walking around in 3-D glasses all the time. I mean, are you serious? Did I miss something? Just bullshit. Plain and simple. It's as if Lamb felt there wasn't enough heartache, that things were going too well and he didn't want to end the story just yet. (Which also explains the return of Mr. Pucci, because, after all, what story set in the mid 80's is complete without a personal reference to the AIDS epidemic?).

In summation, I felt the book was trite and contrived.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
356 reviews
July 19, 2012
She's Come Undone is just so fantastic. I have read this book twice, which is something I never do. The first time I read it was in high school. The second time while I was in my undergrad studies.

There is something so real and touching about the way Lamb wrote the way a woman feels and thinks, which made me forget it was a man who wrote the novel.

The two times I have read this, I took away something different each time. Dolores is the type of woman who has some of my fears as a woman: weight, different insecurities, and other issues I could tell she had. They made the story more real to me.

Some might criticize this book because it was a little depressing in some areas, but I praise it for being real, taking on the challenge of a woman's mind, and ultimately for just being so memorable.

I don't re-read books. There are just so many, and not enough time. However, I will read this for a third and probably a fourth time. It is easily probably my most favorite book EVER.
Profile Image for suehyla.
13 reviews
March 7, 2007
Although well-written, this is one of those books that I finished in a few short days because I refused to put the book down until something good happened to the main character...

Yeah. Good luck with that one.
Profile Image for Danae.
9 reviews4 followers
September 23, 2007
I want to start out by saying that I read *I know this much is true* by Wally Lamb and would rate it in my top 5 favorite books of all time, so this review shouldn't deter anyone from reading his work.
I read some of the other reviews before writing this and I was surprised at how many women were shocked that a man could write such a convincing woman's perspective.
I know MANY insightful, perceptive men who understand women, so I don't find it a stretch that a man can write with a woman's voice. This is creative fiction after all.

If you were to take all the cliches' present in a difficult upbringing--physical and sexual abuse, sexual experimentation, growing up the fat kid, making continuous bad choices, demonizing men, dealing with someone with HIV, and then write a book with polarized characters who rarely find a common ground, you would end up with this book.

I take issue mostly with the character of Dante and his relationship with Dolores.
After a very traumatic upbringing, Dolores finally ends up in college. While there, she develops a very involved secret crush on a roommates’ boyfriend. Years later she runs across a picture of him, tracks down where he lives (without the internet), moves across the country and into his building (the flat directly across the hall, no less) and gets him to fall in love with and marry her in very short order. WHAT? She’s been a withdrawn, traumatized fat girl for the majority of her life but as soon as she loses weight and meets Dante, she develops these mad boyfriend-acquiring skills that turn him from lothario to devoted partner and husband. Please.
I can see randomly running across a picture of someone you recognize from your past, but everything after that was completely unbelievable.

Dante seemed merely a pawn, convenient to the author for whatever drama he wanted to introduce to Dolores, but there was no consistency in him throughout the book.
As a youth he's a loving and devoted Christian, when Dolores meets him he's a womanizing playboy but becomes an attentive thoughtful, boyfriend, then he turns into a critical and selfish spouse, then a cheat, then a virtual pedophile.

The next thing that made me go hmmm was that he took what was initially a positive gay relationship and threw in *the AIDS thing* to muck it all up. It was almost as if he said to himself *Okay. Now my characters are moving into the early 1980's. What was the drama happening then?* and chose AIDS.

Assuming that the gay characters were monogamous (which he surely alluded to) the only way they could have been exposed was through a breakup, so he randomly threw one in.
I don’t know many gay 50yo’s that break up mostly happy LTR’s in the hopes of finding better, especially in a small town and time where gay is still considered deviant.
I live in SF. I have scores of gay friends. I guess with my life experience, I just don't see the monogamous mid-life gay couple as the ones getting HIV.

The good things I WILL say about this book is that his writing is always amazingly descriptive, his characters have depth and texture (if not believability) and his stories are epic.

I will surely read more from him, but with a more critical eye now that he's fallen off the first impression pedestal I've put him on.
This was his first book, too, so I give him leeway for that.
Profile Image for Julianna I.
26 reviews1 follower
May 22, 2008
I hated this book. I don't know how I managed to finish it. I have read some of the reviews where the readers were impressed with how well the male author relayed a story of a struggling woman. Are you kidding me? I found it insulting that this guy thinks that is how a woman would behave. Let me tell you something, I have gone through some hard times in my life, never did I find myself personifying a whale while sitting next to it watching it die. In my opinion, the story was about her descent into insanity - but, apparently where I read "insanity" some found "profundity." No. Nothing profound there. Just painful to my senses.
Profile Image for Lauren Collier.
21 reviews
August 19, 2007
I'm going to be honest, I was quite young when I read this...maybe 15...but it was one of those stories that simply sticks in your brain. I hated it. With everything in me...nothing about this was uplifitng whatsoever and it ends with her bonding with a whale. oooh, amazing. Every turn of the page displayed yet something even more depressing until you were ready to scream...she was depressed and obsessive and fat and slightly lesbionic and trapped herself with a man whom she created really in her mind. I wanted to feel sorry for her, especially because her life was so messed up but it seems she did nothing to help herself but only proceeded to make things worse.
The most I got out of this was wondering if one could actually loose weight by imagining your food had mold on it like she did.
Profile Image for Always Pouting.
575 reviews762 followers
August 24, 2022
I honestly don't know how I feel about this book. I remember loving I Know This Much Is True (even though if you ask me what the plot is I couldn't tell you) so kind of felt let down after reading this. I didn't hate the book but I can see why other people did. I think it's a hard book to read if you can't stomach flawed characters. For a lot of the book Dolores' actions made her unlikable even if the way she behaves is pretty human and understandable.

I know for other people the part of the plot revolving around her weight and the depiction of the lesbian character are what made this book off putting but I felt like the way people were treating Dolores because of her weight was pretty realistic especially for the time period its supposed to be happening in. I also didn't find Dottie to be some kind of predatory caricature, it felt like she was lonely and Dolores is the one who called her the night they have dinner at Dottie's place. I think that was a pretty nuanced depiction of how people who have been sexually assaulted before may end up in situations where they are likely to be coerced.

I personally found the whole therapy thing to be more off-putting especially the reparenting using the pool. I also felt like the whale metaphor/theme wasn't that well done, it wasn't poignant and I feel like the novel would have been unchanged without it. It also feels like the book dragged on like did we really need to follow Dolores for all of her life like that. The other wild thing to me was Dante's reaction, I feel like he should have been more freaked out when Dolores confesses to him.

I did find the book hard to put down though so clearly it's got that going for it. I don't regret reading it but I wouldn't say it was a pleasant experience.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*.
2,473 reviews1,083 followers
February 13, 2017

“I think... the secret is to just settle for the shape of your life takes...Instead of you know, always waiting and wishing for what might make you happy.”

Damn, but this is one of those hard books to rate, think about, and review. It's a cauldron of chaos, a literary train wreck written into the character's life. We're with Dolores from a young age, and we go through the agonies of aging and tragedy with her. So. Much. Tragedy!

It's a book I couldn't take in all at once - instead I had to ingest small doses, then come back to it later. Wally Lamb writes cleverly well - his wording sucked me in when I dared to continue Dolores' depressing story. There's symbolism, there's growth, there's walking backward, there's surprises, there's pain and beauty.

Dolores is hard to identify with - in one way this book is so honest, touching upon things people don't mention enough. Obesity and Aids and rape and horrible husbands and death and...well, so much. This is in no way a simple novel about a woman overcoming obesity. Does she ever survive and find herself? Or does she just survive and find herself in a realistic way, the only way people ever really can?

In some ways Dolores was a turn off, and I don't mean her weaknesses, because I understood those. I mean her lashing out and willingness to hurt those close to her so easily. I know it was because of her age at some point, her anger and frustration and teenage hormones - later I know it was because of her rage and because that was the only way she knew how to fight back. I sympathized with her - she went through awful, horrible stuff. I understood when she fell because so many have fallen there too. I didn't mind that - there was just something a little mean-spirited about her, but I guess that's another thing that makes her a more realistic and honest character.

This book is heavy - I don't mean just length, although that's considerable, but because I went through so many long phases with Dolores, phases that were enough to cover a whole novel by each phase itself. I figured when I got to a point, then the rest of the novel would keep following it. But no, more cycles would start and begin, life was lived a long time in these pages, from a child with the world shattered to a woman nearing forty who has found a semblance, finally, of peace.

I struggled between a three and four star rating. The subject matter, the writing style, the heavy depth deserve four stars. I think I didn't enjoy the second half as much, I was growing impatient with it, how it was draining me, and maybe that sucked a rating away from my enjoyment.

I do have to say that She's Come Undone is different, it's daring, it's honest, it's heartbreaking (really), but it's also wonderful and deserves a read. Definitely not a book I'll forget, and it's not something I've read before.

For Dolores, like for so many of us, there's that ray of hope that is at the same time covered with reality's bleakness.
Profile Image for Bill.
291 reviews93 followers
March 11, 2014
Upon finishing this book I felt compelled to sit perfectly still, in the warm glow of the words of the story, to think about the life of Delores Price. What a fantastic story indeed. I quickly became emotionally entangled with Delores from the very beginning – I rooted for her, I yelled at her, I advised her, I wept for her, I pushed her, I implored her, I cheered for her and I crashed with her under the weight of disappointment, injustice and delusion time after time after time.

The writing is rich and descriptive but not overbearing and the story line is crystal clear. No sharp twists to worry about. I think the very deep hook into this tale for me was the story timeline that began in the 1950s – I was born in ’57, grew up during the 60’s revolution, endured the brutal economic recession and gas rationing of the 70s, disco vs rock 80s and great stock market crash of 1987. I completely understood the nuances of all the presidential, political and social references during the book. They made it feel truly real for me.

Many reviewers panned this book, exclaiming that a male author could not possibly capture the true perspective and essence of an adolescent girl coming of age, maturing into a middle aged women, enduring parental divorce and infidelity, rape, harassment and bullying, her own painful marriage and divorce, death of very close loved ones and in the end finding true happiness in life in her own way. That may be true. I cannot say. But for me the book was a huge winner because my heart completely overflowed with intense empathy for Delores Price. Empathy is gender neutral. If an author can make me feel such intense empathy and compassion for a character, that author did an outstanding job regardless of their gender! This is a 5-STAR effort in my view.

So my first foray into the work of Wally Lamb was a huge success. Next up is I Know This Much Is True that I am reading with a Goodreads friend – can’t wait to dig in!

Keep reading and sharing – and support your local library!
Profile Image for Dem.
1,190 reviews1,131 followers
October 23, 2013
2.5 Stars

She's come undone by Wally Lamb was October Book Club read and was really looking forward to this one as have been hearing great things about Wally Lamb.

This is one of those books you either love or hate and I am pretty much on the side of the haters due to the fact that I found the book quite depressing. Half way through the story I was thinking please let something positive happen in this book or just something uplifting. I found the plot just too unbelievable and a bit contrived.

The characters however are well developed and you really do get a great sense of time and place from this novel and Wally Lamb's writing.
I think that this will make a great book club read as we had an excellent discussion on this one.
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,157 followers
February 1, 2015
This dark coming-of-age story was just an ok read for me. It felt long, a bit overdone and had very few happy moments along the way.

It all begins in the late 1950's with Delores, a lying, foul-mouthed young girl who enters her teens friendless and grossly overweight. Her lack of proper parental guidance and naivety leads to her troubled existence resulting in a disturbed young woman who struggles and searches for sex, love and acceptance in all the wrong places.

I loved Lamb's I Know This Much Is True, but "She's Come Undone" fell short of my expectations.

Profile Image for B the BookAddict.
300 reviews667 followers
October 6, 2017
Loaned via Inter-Library service. I have felt much more empathy with Dolores on this second read fifteen years after I first read this. Was Dolores's personality formed by being overweight or was she that type of person regardless? Sadly, she realises that as one movie character from another film says "High school is never over." In college and her working life, she finds that cliques and how you look always affect you; thus she finds herself an outsider. I think that Lamb does a reasonably good job in speaking from the female point of view and he provides many minor characters and various issues which keeps the reader interested. While I Know This Much Is True is still my favorite Lamb novel, She's Come Undone is also a good offering. 3.75★
August 27, 2009
When I read this book, I felt like the author took his (surprisingly the author is a man for such a female story) hand, clawed through my ribcage and tore my heart out. This is one of the few books that makes me cry. I may feel sorrow when I read an angsty book, but normally I don't cry. Well this one turned on the waterworks for me.

Dolores had a crappy life. Her father who she loved walks out on Dolores and her mother. Mom has to work for the first time in her life and Dolores becomes a latchkey kid. She took solace in eating after she was horribly raped by a neighbor. She ate until she got really big. She ate to fill the hole inside of herself and to take away the pain. It didn't work. It wasn't so bad until her mother died, and it really went downhill.

So she spends the majority of this book as an outcast in the world. I thought Lamb did a great job of showing how the obese feel and are treated. As if they are monstrosities not worthy of human kindness. Even when you are plump, you are often treated unkindly, but being obese is like having a sign on you that says, "I know you think I'm disgusting, so kick me."

Even a person who should understand her pain and what she faces as an obese person, really turns out to be a user, and that part was very hard to read.

Dolores ends up attempting suicide and ends up in a mental institution, getting her mind together and losing weight. When she gets out, she is pleasingly plump. She has a decent job and is faring well. She cannot believe that she is actually getting attention from men. I wish she waited for the right one. Unfortunately she doesn't. That's when she meets the worst piece of garbage on earth, becomes involved with him, and eventually marries him. It's like he picks up on her low self esteem and zeroes in on her. And this relationship takes another very large piece of her heart away in ways that I cannot go into without spoiling the book.

This is one of those journeys where you feel like the end is a cliff overlooking sharp, jagged rocks. Thankfully it's not. If you can continue along on Dolores' heartbreaking voyage of discovery, there is a place of hope at the end. Life won't be a perfect fairy tale ending, but we all know that life isn't like that. But her perseverance and the strength inside her gentle soul allows her to make it to a place of self-discovery and peace, where contentment and joy can enter into her life at the end of this heartbreaking novel.

I read this book the first time, and I listened to it on tape the second time, and both times left me sobbing. Imagine driving your car and crying at the same time. I can't say it's for everyone, but I have no regrets in reading this book. It is one of the few Oprah books that I read and did enjoy, tears and all.
Profile Image for Chloe.
350 reviews552 followers
September 17, 2007
Dear Bob, please deliver me from anymore sanctimonious books about the struggles of forging an independent identity and moving on from traumatic events. They were really good and really touching the first, ummmm, 20-30 times I read them, but at this point it just feels like I'm reading retreads of the same old tired story. I've seen this movie. They gave Angelina the Oscar for it even though Winona deserved it more. But that is neither here nor there. Is the book well-written? Yes, it most definitely is. Every review of it seems as if it's required to gush over the fact that Wally Lamb is a man and yet somehow manages to capture the view from a woman's perspective so accurately. Due to the exigencies of anatomy, I don't feel qualified to comment on that but I can say that the story is at least mildly interesting and definitely well-written.

I'm forced to wonder though, would I have liked this book more had the front jacket not featured Oprah's ever-present Seal of Approval? Did my disdain for her empire of influence color my opinion before I even read the first sentence? Would I have been more open-minded if the book hadn't constantly been preached to me as an "incredible piece of writing" that hit many of my friends "at a very deep and personal level"? Maybe, but I guess we'll never know. My reading of the book was tainted by pre-formed opinions based on the manner in which the book came into my awareness. I'd say that maybe I would put this back on the shelf and read it again 5 years from now when I have forgotten all of the hype, but life is short and my reading list is long and I don't feel the need to reread merely average books.
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