In middle age, Annie Oh—wife, mother, and outsider artist—has shaken her family to its core. After twenty-seven years of marriage and three children, Annie has fallen in love with Viveca, the wealthy, cultured, confident Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her professional success.
Annie and Viveca plan to wed in the Oh family's hometown of Three Rivers, 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
PARTICULARS OF THE BOOK:
Published by: Harper Collins
Author: Wally Lamb
Purchase this book: Barnes & Noble Where you can find other reviews of the book
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Wally Lamb is the author of four previous novels, including the New York Times and national bestseller The Hour I First Believed and Wishin' and Hopin', a bestselling novella. His first two works of fiction, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, were both number one New York Times bestsellers and selections of Oprah's Book Club. Lamb edited Couldn't Keep It to Myself and I'll Fly Away, two volumes of essays from students in his writing workshop at York Correctional Institution, a women's prison in Connecticut where he has been a volunteer facilitator for fifteen years. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Christine. The Lambs are the parents of three sons.
The desire to write fiction hit Wally Lamb comparatively late in life. He was in his 30s, living in Connecticut, working as a high school English teacher, and relishing his role as a brand new father, when he began his first story. As he worked his way through several drafts, he was suddenly struck by how little he knew of the writer's craft. Determined to improve his skills, he enrolled in the M.F.A. program at Vermont College.
Lamb blossomed at Vermont, where he learned two important and liberating lessons from his teacher and mentor Gladys Swann: (1.) Never write with a particular audience in mind; write for yourself, and let the audience find you. (2.) There's no such thing as an original story; the writer's job is to recast a familiar tale in his or her own way. Acting on Swann's advice, he immersed himself in mythology and reread the works of Joseph Campbell and Heinrich Zimmer.
In 1992, eight years after completing graduate school, Lamb published his first novel. The story of a tremendously overweight woman who triumphs over a lifetime of misery, pain, and abuse, She's Come Undone became a surprise bestseller, and several publications, including The New York Times, placed it on their year-end "best of" lists. Then, in 1997, kingmaker Oprah Winfrey selected it for her prestigious Book Club, catapulting Lamb into the literary limelight.
By the time he received Oprah's endorsement, Lamb was nearly finished with his second novel. Published in 1998, I Know This Much Is True garnered rave reviews for its sensitive portrayal of twin brothers, one of whom suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. To Lamb's surprise, Oprah beckoned a second time, praising his sophomore effort with these admiring words: "It's not just a book, it's a life experience."
Lamb is tremendously grateful for the boost the Oprah experience has given his career. "It opened me up to so many more millions of readers I might not have had," he told USA Today, "but it's also a double-edged sword." At best a painstakingly slow writer, he found himself crippled by writer's block, choking on the pressure to produce a worthy third novel. "I had all those Oprah readers with their expectations in my writing room. I had to open my office door and shoo everybody's expectations out of there." The process took nearly a decade, but finally, in 2008, Lamb published The Hour I First Believed, an ambitious epic that touches on a rich ragout of sociopolitical themes, including the Columbine killings, Hurricane Katrina, and the Iraq War. In addition to his own work, Lamb has edited two bestselling anthologies of writing authored by inmates at York Correctional Institute, the maximum security women's prison in Niantic, Connecticut, where he began teaching in 1999. Lamb speaks lovingly of his students, some of whom have evolved into wonderful writers. The first anthology, Couldn't Keep It to Myself: Testimonies from Our Imprisoned Sisters, was published in 2003 to great critical acclaim and earned for one of the inmates the PEN/Newman's Own First Amendment Award. It also became the center of legal controversy. Following publication, the State of Connecticut attempted to sue the women authors -- not for the modest earnings the book would net them after they left prison, but for the entire cost of their incarceration: $117 a day! The suit was settled, thanks to the intervention of sympathetic officials, legislators, and journalists. In 2007, Lamb published I'll Fly Away, a second anthology of the York inmates' writing.
A WORD FROM MR. LAMB:
Good To Know
Raised in a blue-collar corner of Connecticut, Lamb grew up in the looming shadow of Norwich State Hospital, a sprawling facility for the mentally ill. Now closed, the institution played a part in Lamb's family history. As an adult, Lamb learned that the grandfather he had never known had been locked up in the hospital for a violent attack on his wife. He later discovered that his grandfather had died of brain cancer and wondered if illness had provoked the violence. Unsurprisingly, the themes of incarceration and mental illness play important roles in his stories.
A WORD FROM MR. LAMB:
THE BOOKISH DAME REVIEWS :
This is a very difficult review for me to write. I've thought about it for a couple of days now and wondered if I'd get it down right for you. I've been an avid fan of Wally Lamb's for many, many years and had such excitement when I learned he had a new book out. I rushed to get a copy. I'm sad to say this one was a disappointment to me in some major ways, although I did grasp the over all story and could appreciate what Mr. Lamb's intention was in telling it. (See Summary above)
This is first of all a long book that became increasingly a drain to read as I found it less engaging. It was mostly a stream of consciousness novel, and I'm not fond of that writing style (I've never been a James Joyce fan) so the 570 some pages became a torture that I seemed never to make headway on. I began to dread picking the book up. Does this tell you something?
While I expected it to be a book that was focused more on the story of a lesbian couple, it really wasn't. It's more a story of a wildly dysfunctional and bleeding family told mostly from the perspective of a wildly dysfunctional psychologist father. Which would have been fine if it were interesting...
While the book is divided into chapters/segments written from the minds and voices of the different characters, it weighed heavily on the view of the father of the family, it seemed to me.
I found I couldn't feel an affinity with any of these characters. For the most part they were a very whiny and self-serving bunch...self-absorbed in their different psychosis's. It became a downer. It wasn't a pleasant read. While we are given the most minute details of the characters and their personal issues, this was couched in a stream of consciousness that was boring. It clogged things up. There seemed no light at the end of the dark tunnel as life's greatest horror stories were revealed. Just too wordy and dense.
I was soundly disappointed. Over the course of his career, I've been an avid reader and follower of Wally Lamb. I feel this one falls short of his other writings. It may be a melting pot of his life experiences, and perhaps his informative times with the women prisoners he's encountered. I have no idea. Maybe it was a story just too close for him to write about successfully.
In wrapping up, again, I found "We Are Water" a struggle to get through. I finished it because it was a Wally Lamb book and I really wanted to push my way through it hoping it would get better. Was the story worth it ultimately? Not in my opinion. Would it have been better in another format/writing style? Perhaps.
I'm sad to say it was disappointing.
3 stars Deborah/TheBookishDame