Books I Loathed discussion

Loathed Titles > She's Come Undone

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message 1: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:44AM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) I know a bunch of people who hated this book as much as I did, but most people seem to love it. I don't get it. It's like watching an entire week of reruns of Queen for a Day, but really, nothing much happens. The whole book has a formula: Something bad, very bad, happens to Dolores. Dolores suffers, and suffers, and suffers, and then suffers some more. She overcomes the horrible experience through pain. Then something else bad, very bad, happens to Dolores. You know the rest. Repeat for 500 pages.

Bad writing, hackneyed situations (rape! weight gain! Confusion about sexuality! A bad boyfriend!), and repetition. Sure, what's not to love?

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

But there was that part about the Etch-A-Sketch art. That made me laugh out loud. I often wanted to do a blog with the title The Etch-A-Sketch Diaries.

message 3: by Jessica (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:45AM) (new)

Jessica I agree with Laura, this is possibly the worst popular book ever written.

message 4: by Xysea (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:45AM) (new)

Xysea  (xysea) i liked the etch-a-sketch art, too. i didn't think it was terrible.

message 5: by Christen (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:48AM) (new)

Christen | 61 comments I totally hated this book too! I'm glad to know I'm not the only one, since evidently millions of Oprah's worshippers thought it was grand. I ended up kind of hating Delores and wanting more bad things to happen to her. I'm kidding, of course, but wow. This book was so bad.

message 6: by Marsha (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:48AM) (new)

Marsha I loved She's Come Undone.

message 7: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:56AM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) Yeah, I'd also be curious to hear what anyone loved about it.

message 8: by Marsha (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:56AM) (new)

Marsha Hi Sherri,

I was thoroughly plunged into Dolores' point of view. I didn't like her, but she was believable. Sometimes I felt like shaking sense into her, but I bought into the character.

message 9: by Xysea (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:56AM) (new)

Xysea  (xysea) I agree with Marsha. Furthermore, I also LOVED Wally Lamb's 'I Know This Much Is True'. Coming from a family where a sibling had a mental illness, I found it a moving and honest portrait of that life.

I think Wally excels at making his characters real, and that includes unlikeable, obnoxious, and deserving of what happens to them. They have the same depth and flaws of any actual person you might know, and that stays with the reader.

One of the hallmarks of a good book, to me, is strong reaction one way or another. The middle of the road is boring.

message 10: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:56AM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) Have to disagree with that. I don't think the reaction anyone has to a book really has anything to do with whether it's a well-crafted book, or whether the writer has any genuine ability. It might mean the author has some ability to engage in cheap emotional manipulation -- lord knows that's Lamb's forte -- but that's different from being a talented writer, able to communicate with some nuance and subtlety. "She's Come Undone" was about as nuanced and subtle as a Mack truck going downhill with no brakes. (I mean, the main character's name is "Dolores," for god's sake. Why didn't he just go the whole way and name her "OH, WOE IS ME"?)

If you liked a book, there's certainly no arguing with that -- hell, I like some unbelievable garbage, like The Ruins and all sorts of true crime crap I'd be embarrassed to mention. But I think it's a mistake to assert that a book must be good because a significant portion of the readers want to throw it into the closest bonfire. It's childishly easy to garner strong reactions from people in general -- look at Fred Phelps, the "God Hates Fags" guy, and there are about a dozen other examples I could come up with -- but that doesn't mean the author is doing something worthwhile in itself.

As for whether Lamb made Dolores a real character, I couldn't disagree more strongly. I thought the character was a caricature of The Poor Suffering Woman; she could have come straight out of a parody of "The Pilgrim's Progress." There was nothing organic in the portrayal; Lamb just whisked her from scene to scene, placing her in peril time and time and time again in an attempt to bludgeon the reader into giving a shit. That's not writing -- that's bullying, and it's what makes Lamb a hack.

message 11: by Marsha (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:56AM) (new)

Marsha I also loved I Know This Much Is True, Xysea. For me, the hallmark of a good book is whether I can willingly suspend my disbelief and be entirely plunged into the character and story.

I find that since I've become a writer, my tastes have changed dramatically. I used to read only literary fiction, but now I enjoy well-crafted popular fiction as a good escape from my own writing and arduous research. I tried finding escape by reading authors like Mary Higgins Clark, Kathy Reichs, Stephen King, Anne Perry, the Kellermans. Yuck yuck ick to all of them. I was so distracted by the clunky craft issues of the actual writing that I couldn't plunge myself into the stories. But Wally Lamb grabs me every time.

message 12: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:56AM) (new)

When I first saw this group, the very first book I thought of was She's Come Undone. I read it with a book group in San Francisco and everyone was oohing and ahhing and I was groaning. I applaud anyone, really, who finishes writing a novel, it's hard, but this book was so painfully bad. So shallow, gimmicky, and not even a good fun gimmick! I loathed this book from start to finish. I really tried to think, too, why I hated it so much, it was such a wholistic feeling of loathing - it annoyed me, above all, because it takes the easy way out. The writing is weak, the character is undeveloped and unengaging, and the events have no meaning.

message 13: by Xysea (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:56AM) (new)

Xysea  (xysea) Well, Laura, we'll just have to agree to disagree on this matter. I appreciate the forcefulness with which you state your opinion, but I feel my reasons for liking it are sound and I don't feel the need to defend them further.

Thanks for commenting on my comment.

message 14: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:57AM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) Actually, I wasn't asking you to defend your reasons for liking the book -- I think I made that reasonably clear when I said, "If you liked a book, there's certainly no arguing with that." The main thrust of my post was not to take issue not with your opinion of the book, but with your statement that a book must be good if people have strong reactions to it, which I think is just dead wrong.

message 15: by Summer Rae (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:57AM) (new)

Summer Rae Garcia | 45 comments I read this book years and years ago and it still makes me angry when I see it, hear about it or people argue about it. It was just plain awful. I have never read a female character that I identified with less. I was so disgusted by her killing the fish. That is the part that I always think of. I was appalled by the way so many women could identify with this miserable woman. Bless your hearts.

message 16: by John (new)

John | 8 comments It was grim ... very much so (although well written), but I found the optimistic ending made the read worthwhile.

message 17: by Sybil (new)

Sybil | 1 comments I am so glad to see I am not the only one who hates this book! The entire thing was depressing and just... ick. It was torture getting through it, which I only did because I thought there MUST be something good in it, eventually. Too bad my hopes never came to fruition. Ugh. I can't believe that anyone identified with this character, either! What a scary thought!

message 18: by David (last edited Mar 03, 2008 12:24AM) (new)

David (david_giltinan) | 58 comments A month after finishing this book, I still have conflicting opinions.

On the plus side:

Easy to read: Dolores is funny. 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. 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 about when the breaking point will happen. 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.

message 19: by Lisa (new)

Lisa | 27 comments Oh, count me in! I hated this book. I accidentally found myself reading several books of this same formula in a row ((Female) child's life sucks. Life keeps getting worse, and she treats herself awfully because of it. Aren't the things that happen to this character bizarre and fascinating? Don't you feel bad for her every time something else horrible happens? Isn't the world awful? Don't worry, she will TRIUMPH in the end. Isn't the world great?), and this was the worst of them.

This book managed to hit a bunch of my hate buttons. The "psychiatry/psychology is crazy, bizarre, and abusive!" button. And that messed up so-called 'therapy' actually helped her? Fictional crap like that gives the whole mental health profession a bad name. The "humiliation makes you a strong, kind person!" button. And for that matter, the "humiliation makes for a compelling read!" button. And then the "no matter what, the story can't end without her finding love!" button.

It made me sad, because I actually read I Know This Much Is True for a graduate-level clinical psychology class, and I thought it was an excellent look at how schizophrenia, and especially the spectre of nature and/or nurture, affects families. It's like the two books weren't even written by the same author.

message 20: by Liz (new)

Liz (liosaidh) | 9 comments I agree with all the "I hate it because..." comments above, but what I hated more than the book itself was how people exclaimed, "Wally Lamb writes sooooo convincingly as a woman!!! OMG!"

Bull honky. It doesn't sound like any female author I've ever read.

message 21: by Judy (new)

Judy (judy5cents) | 26 comments I can't say I loathed this book, but I do remember being disappointed in it. I read it after I read "I Know This Much Is True" and I was expecting more. As Lisa pointed out, bad things just keep happening to poor Delores and that really got old after a hundred pages or so.

I had a hard time believing Lamb's solution for Delores's weight problem. She imagines her food is crawling with maggots and she just stops eating. She also manages to maintain her weight loss, although we never know how.

The most implausible part of the book for me though is when, after losing weight and becoming attractive, Delores goes after her room-mate's handsome boyfriend. She even manages to get him to fall in love with her because she'd read all his love letters to her room-mate. I just couldn't accept that she could go from pathetic plain Jane to duplicitous femme fatale, without much in between. After all her lies and manipulation, I thought it served her right when her Prince Charming turns out to be a jerk too.

message 22: by Lauren (new)

Lauren (lmulls) I had very mixed feelings about this book. I praise Wally Lamb as a writer, but there were jut a couple of things that bothered me. I chose to read this for my summer book report (I am a sophomore in high school) and while I got to pay only 98 cents for it, and it took me under two days to read, I was left a bit disappointed. Dolores was a real character, but she was so selfish and itchy-with-a-b to her poor mother and grandmother. I was very frustrated, and just wanted to jump into the story and slap her. You actually don't know many characters I've wanted to do that too in books in general haha! Another thing was the description of the sex scenes. Usually, sex doesn't phase me. Numerous times has there been an unexpected sex scene in books I've read, whether for school (and that's not my favorite thing to discuss, mind you >>) or for pleasure. It's a bit awkward, because it's so adult, but it's something you're going to end up reading at some point. In any case, I couldn't get past the janitor and Dante sex scenes without shuddering a bit., no.

Spider the Doof Warrior (synesthesia) | 15 comments I've read this book 3 times. First time i liked, second time I hated it. I read it again for a book club.
Still hated it because...
THERE'S TOO MANY STEREOTYPES! Every other background character is a stereotype, the butchy lesbian, the girly kind gay guy who dies of AIDS to teach the main character about life, the rapping half-black boy, it's just endless stereotypes.
Not to mention the piles of misery, the fact that Delores was so mean sometimes. Those poor fish. Just because she had lesbian sex doesn't mean she had to kill them.
They didn't do anything to her...

message 24: by stormhawk (last edited Sep 30, 2010 02:34PM) (new)

stormhawk Got this book from a coworker who gushed over it, glad I had read I Know This Much is True prior to it, because based on She's Come Undone I would have never picked up another of his books!

People with borderline personality disorder annoy me enough in real life, I don't need to read books about them, too.

message 25: by Regine (new)

Regine I really hate this book...for all the reasons stated above. SO Painful to read!

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