|We Are Water
4 / 5
"'I understand there was some controversy about the coroner's ruling concerning Josephus Jones's death.'"
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Hour I First Believed and I Know This Much Is True, a disquieting and ultimately uplifting novel about a marriage, a family, and human resilience in the face of tragedy
In middle age, Anna Oh - wife, mother, outsider artist - has shaken her family to its core. After twenty-seven years of marriage and three children, Anna has fallen in love with Vivica, the wealthy, cultured, confident Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her professional success.
Anna and Viveca plan to wed in the Oh family's hometown of Three Rivers in Connecticut, where gay marriage has recently been legalized. But the impending wedding provokes some very mixed reactions and opens a Pandora's Box of toxic secrets--dark and painful truths that have festered below the surface of the Ohs' lives.
We Are Water is an intricate and layered portrait of marriage, family, and the inexorable need for understanding and connection, told in the alternating voices of the Ohs--nonconformist Annie; her ex-husband, Orion, a psychologist; Ariane, the do-gooder daughter, and her twin, Andrew, the rebellious only son; and free-spirited Marissa, the youngest Oh. Set in New England and New York during the first years of the Obama presidency, it is also a portrait of modern America, exploring issues of class, changing social mores, the legacy of racial violence, and the nature of creativity and art.
With humor and breathtaking compassion, Wally Lamb brilliantly captures the essence of human experience in vivid and unforgettable characters struggling to find hope and redemption in the aftermath of trauma and loss. We Are Water is vintage Wally Lamb-a compulsively readable, generous, and uplifting masterpiece that digs deep into the complexities of the human heart to explore the ways in which we search for love and meaning in our lives.
As usual with Wally Lamb, this was a solid and really enjoyable book. Not unexpected, but it had been QUITE some time since I'd read one of his novels. (I think maybe 5 or 6 years? I guess since his last novel came out...) So this book was a pleasant reminder of why he is so beloved. He writes people SO well. Men, women, children - even pedophiles, for Pete's sake! He just really knows how to get inside his characters' heads. His work reminds me a lot of Jonathan Franzen's, because it examines an entire family and all of the outside and inside influences on the people who comprise a family unit. Plus, his stories usually span several generations, going backwards and forwards through time in order to truly tell the whole, comprehensive story.
For instance, as upsetting as the sections are to read, Lamb's portrayal of a pedophile and particularly how the character became so corrupted was fascinating. There were of course points where I was squirming from listening to Kent's story, and there was one point where I was so upset with him I wished I could reach through the book and throttle some sense into his warped head! - But really isn't that just the mark of an amazing writer? And Lamb really writes Kent's history such that who he becomes is almost understandable, in a way. NOT excusable. Just...it makes quite a bit of sense that he became who he became, based on what he'd been through. And I applaud the author for his ability to do that!
Let me point out that this book is not all about pedophiles, though. And there are very few of those uncomfortable parts (but just to warn you, they are not easy to read). For the most part, the book is fascinating and really enjoyable reading, as chapters jump between a bunch of different characters - there are perhaps 8 or 9 distinct first person narratives in the book - some of whom you revisit, some who you never see again. But all of their stories are important and play a vital role to the story as a whole. The reader gets to see the perspective of Annie, who has left her husband for her art dealer,Viveca; Orion, who is the newly divorced husband; their children; and a handful of other characters - including a chapter that features Dr. Ruth! Lamb writes each person so distinctively and truly. I didn't want to put this book down, and despite its length I really flew through it. I audiobooked it, and I would highly recommend that for those who enjoy listening to books - the voices (including the author, who reads the part of Orion) are wonderful and add an extra layer of personality to each character.
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