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When high school teacher Caelum Quirk and his wife, Maureen, a school nurse, move to Littleton, Colorado, they both get jobs at Columbine High School. In April 1999, while Caelum is away, Maureen finds herself in the library at Columbine, cowering in a cabinet and expecting to be killed. Miraculously, she survives, but at a cost: she is unable to recover from the trauma. When Caelum and Maureen flee to an illusion of safety on the Quirk family's Connecticut farm, they discover that the effects of chaos are not easily put right, and further tragedy ensues.

Topics: War, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Prisoners, Stress, Grief, Death, Marriage, Addiction, Prison, Hurricane Katrina, Iraq War, Trauma, Suicide, Adultery, Guilt, Mental Illness, Love, Family, Secrets, Colorado, Connecticut, 1990s, 2000s, Tragic, Psychological, Heartbreaking, Haunting, Dark, Dramatic, Realism, First Person Narration, Epic, American Author, Male Author, and 21st Century

Published: HarperCollins on Oct 6, 2009
ISBN: 9780061980312
List price: $6.99
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I breezed through this 700+ pages and completely forgot the central story (the Columbine massacre) until it was introduced - Mr. Lamb's story of Quirk was that engrossing. I enjoyed the insertion of Quirk's family history through century-old letters and the fictional publisher of his first (and only) novel was Simon & Schuster but Mr. Lamb's book was published by Harper Collins.read more
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I found this book an easy read. I also thought that the many little sub stories took away from the main theme. I started to lose the main story line. I much prefer generational books to start from the first generation to the present day. I started to forget who was who.read more
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i am so surprised and disappointed that i didn't finish this book. when i first started reading i was thinking "wow, this is definitely going to be a five star book." i loved it. then, about 400 pages in all these new characters started popping up and i just couldn't get into their story. so i feel that if mr. lamb would've made the book shorter i would've absolutely loved it. i still love his writing though and will still read more books of his in the future if he continues to write.read more
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Wally Lamb creates characters who become real as they are revealed on the page. When thinking about the book between readings, it was like revisiting acquaintances I was getting to know intimately. There are twists and turns, history that is revealed and unraveled like the labyrinth that he alludes to in the novel.

It's a book that took ten years to write, and these pages contain those ten years. Not only is does it delve into the family history of the characters for the past century, it revisits the occurances that have shaped the past decade of our country's history; in this way, just by reading, you also become a character. There are moments of repitition in the story--perhaps needed, in a book this long, and which jumps around this much, but a bit much for certain points.

Overall, a moving and intriguing book.read more
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This is a brilliant book that covers a great deal of ground emotionally and chronologically. It begins with a couple deeply affected by the Columbine shootings, and moves from there to the history of a family, addiction, and a long-held mystery. Wally Lamb obviously learned a great deal from the female prisoners whose writing he mentored, and the incorporation of this experience into the novel is essential to the plot. He is unsurpassed in allowing his readers to know what the characters feel and the impact on their subsequent actions. I loved his previous books and this one is no exception. I only hope we don't have to wait so long before his next book is published. I will remember this book for a very long time.read more
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This is not a book I would have picked up to read but it was a Book Group selection so dutifully read. I'm glad I did. The book is about Caelum and Maureen Quirk, teacher and school nurse at Columbine. He is absent on the fateful day and she was a survivor. The author writes with great clarity on the event at the school itself, the history of the shooters and the impact on the whole community. Lamb details the impact of Maureen's post-traumatic stress on her husband and marriage, her downward spiral and ultimate tragedy. The story is told from Caelum's point of view and the reader gets to experience his slow understanding of himself and his behavior. My biggest problem with the book comes with the second half. Lamb leaves his original story and veers off on a related but essentially separate story of Caelum's history and exploration of his family through the discovery of some old family documents. I found myself skipping ahead to try to figure out who these people were that he was writing about. This could have been done as a sequel.read more
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I love Wally Lamb. This is a fantastic book looking into the fallout of trauma. Great characters with so much pulled from his time working in the womens prison.read more
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I just finished reading Wally Lamb's newest creation, The Hour I First Believed. I was very moved by this book. Lamb doesn't let his characters off easy. They have hard lives and have to make hard choices. His first two books, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, are witness to this. In those first two books, the main characters are often dealing with one personal tragedy that has made their life spin out of control. The same is true for The Hour I First Believed, with the exception that the first trauma is more like a jumping point. Life will not only never be the same, it's almost impossible to stop the following tragedies that are a result of the first.The book is about a couple, Caelum (teacher) and Maureen Quirk (school nurse), who are witnesses to the Columbine massacre. Caelum is out of town seeing to his aunt's funeral when he sees the footage on television and rushes home to find out if his wife, students, and colleagues are still alive. Maureen is still alive, but having been in the library during the shooting, she is a different woman when she walks out of the school than she was when she walked in that day. (This is all on the cover, so I'm not spoiling anything!)Although Caelum and Maureen are fictional characters, many of the real victims are featured in the story. Lamb takes the time to detail exactly what happened that day and the planning that went into it by the two boys for those who may not have spent every minute in front of the television watching it unfold as it happened (as I did). Ironically, it is Caelum that makes the statement that although many kids are bullied, they don't go out and commit mass murder while Maureen (briefly) sees why it might happen in the first place. In her role as school nurse, she has been giving comfort to the students who feel like outsiders. Maureen's PTSD is debilitating in the aftermath and Caelum's life is turned in so many directions that it can't even be called up-side-down. The later tragedies of 9/11 and Katrina make appearances in the story as well as the Civil War.I saw a review that stated Lamb takes too many tangents from the main storyline. I didn't feel that was the case at all. Every generation in Caelum's family, going aback to the civil war, has a prominent role at one point in the story. However, I don't feel these were "tangents" but integral parts of a story that would have been incomplete without them. It is true that his and Maureen's story could have been told well without these bits of history and the book may have been much shorter but I felt that Lamb was making the point with these "tangents." We are not solely the product of our parents and those who have been in our lives from birth but every major decision in the lives of those before us, continues to affect us whether we realize it or not. Those people made decisions that would have made our own lives very different if another choice was made.I waited a long time for this book, having greatly enjoyed his first two, and Wally Lamb did not disappoint.read more
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The book is about a middle-aged couple--he's a Literature teacher in high schools and colleges and prisons, and she's a nurse in high schools, clinics, and prisons. They are working at a Colorado high school in April 1999. He has to go back east on a Sunday to attend to his aunt's funeral arrangements; she stays behind and is going to catch up to him the next Tuesday. But then there is a violent event at the high school, and mass attack with bombs and guns, perpetrated by two students--you know who I am talking about by now, probably--whom the teacher knows. They were in some of his classes, and he sees them working at a pizza joint the before he leaves to his home State of Connecticut.Since his wife is at the school in direct contact with the shooters on the day of the rampage, April 20, 1999, the first portion of the book deals directly with the aftermath, including her Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder, as well as addiction to prescription drugs. She has a new traumatic incident when she has a traffic accident while under the influence of drugs. Her husband is dragged into her troubles. Although he does love her, he finds it hard to commit to her increased needs for support. The book is gut-wrenching; I have no concept whatever of what it could be like for the survivors of mass violence. This book gives some vicarious taste of what that might be like. More and more people around the world are living through this as a daily event. God help us. Or somebody out there help us. It is encouraging to see how these two flawed individuals can build each other up along with the support of extended family and of friends.read more
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I have just finished "The hour I first believed" and I am sitting in front of the computer with contradictory feelings. As a declared fan of Lamb's former novels, I still think he is a genius in portraying the human soul. His grasp of emotional intelligence and his skill in exposing human nature and its inner ups and downs, are masterly laid out to the reader in both a crude and tender way. The same as in his previous novels, you end up knowing each character as if it was a real human being, with its own flaws and limitations.Having said that, I also have to admit that if this had been my first novel by Lamb, I might not have been so taken up with the author. The formula doesn't work as much as it does in "I know this much is true" or in "She's come undone". With Lamb's last work, I had to force myself to keep on reading as there where some tedious passages difficult to absorb. The thing is that there's material in this book for at least eight different novels:The story of Caelum Quirk, a teacher at Columbine High School at the time of the shootings in April 1999, and his wife Maureen, who also works there as a nurse and who survives the shootings while Caelum is called away by an urgent family business. I was completely shaken by the description of the killings, the facts were exposed in a journalist's style, without literary ornaments, which made all the recollection more real and hard to take in.After the killings we witness Maureen's psychological decay and Caelum's futile attempts to bring his estranged wife back to normality again. In a nearly decomposing marriage, they decide to move to the old Quirk's family farm in Connecticut.The story starts to get complicated when Maureen is incarcerated for killing a boy while driving under the effect of some anti-depressants and Caelum is left alone in the farm with the heavy burden of his old ancestors, who hide dark secrets which will change Caelum's understanding of life.Let's say the book could be more like and essay regarding controversial and actual subjects such as gratuity violence in schools, the condemnation of wars and the abuse of power, the ethical concept of victim or guilty and whether the punishing system is fair, and finally, the whole American history seen through the eyes of Caelum's ancestors.Mix all that complicate subjects with the emotional display of a deeply well described character who goes through all kind of dreadful events and who has to learn to overcome them, emerging a wiser but a humbler person. Caelum comes to accept the inevitable but also, for the first time in his life, starts to believe.So, a too much ambitious project? Maybe too presumptuous? I don't know the answers.I only can say that I was moved by the end of the story, and if a novel can make you feel something it means that the message gets through somehow.All in all, a difficult but a humbling experience, maybe not for a five stars rate, but still worth the effort."Beware! He who goes questing for what he wants may discover, along the way, what he needs.""Our ancestors move along with us, in underground rivers and springs too deep for chaos to reach.""What I do know is that we are powerless to whoever or whatever god is."read more
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I have very mixed feelings about this book. I think that is mainly because it felt like it was a book within a book and there were so many different strands of the overall story that it felt like almost too much and a little overwhelming. I thought this was going to be a book about the after effects of Columbine on a couple of the characters, but it ended up being so much more than that. That is not necessarily a bad thing and Wally Lamb is clearly a very able writer who is able to hold a story together well so that it pieces all together.I think the main thing I didn't like about the book was the voice of the narrator. I found him irritating, slightly misogynistic and overall, not very likeable. I THINK that was supposed to be on purpose, but it felt very obvious (like, glaring in your face obvious) from the start, that the main character would be going through a big emotional crisis that would make him talk about his feelings and he would hopefully, by the end of the book, be a bit less of a jerk. It all felt a little bit cliched.That said, this was still a good, engrossing read. The characters from the narrator's ancestry came to life so well that I had to Google them for myself to make sure they weren't real! The story was full of surprises and despite my complaints, I would not dismiss any future books from Wally Lamb.read more
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Spoiler alert…If there’s one word to describe this book, it’s “joyless.” After seven hundred pages of painful reminiscing about tragic deaths, troubled teens, Columbine, and depression, the main character reaches a solemn conclusion about life and it’s one hope. Life’s redeeming quality is an enduring hope for a better future.Caelum, Wally’s first-person character, struggles to understand. “God: big G, little g? Buddha? Allah? The Holy Trinity? Is god the DNA we bring forth? The genes that mutate on the cliff’s edge of chaos? Beats me.” Caelum slides not-so-gently into old age by book’s end, nearly everything taken from him, and finally reaches acceptance.Leave this book to the psychologists; it’s a downer. I wouldn’t review it except that it did resonate with me in one way. For some, the only imaginable “better future” is heaven. Some say that my brand of Christianity and its focus on our earthly life serves only to rob others of faith. Heaven is a dream held out to all who find themselves buried under life’s hopelessness. Do we truly need our dreams of heaven, and if so, am I performing a disservice by promoting the humanitarian side of Christianity over the supernatural? Am I stealing the joy of the next life from believers in the same way Wally steals our joy in this life?I confess, it sometimes troubles me.read more
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Deep and pretty depressingread more
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This is a massive book which begins with Caellum Quirk a teacher at Littleton ,Colorado conversing with a former student who goes on to become one of the Columbine killers. His wife, Maureen is then caught up in the tragedy which leaves her shell shocked and suffering PTSD . There are many threads to the story, a young troubled teen who adopts Maureen as her mother, financial woes have Caellum let out the upstairs rooms of his house to a couple fleeing hurricane Katrina, Caellum finds some old diaries that have links to his past about his true identity within his family etc etc...... The novel loses some focus at times on the central characters and I found flat spots where it became a bit frustrating and I put it down for a while to read other books but it is ultimately worth the effort and hence the high score I believe it deserves. Oprah will love it.read more
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I am a huge Wally Lamb fan, so when I heard this was coming out, I was beside myself. This is a very good novel, but not a great one. It unravels a bit towards the end and the unreal amount of tragic things that happen to our protagonist are well, pretty unreal. But like all of his books, this is an author who knows how to explore the undercurrents that drive human beings, both genders, young and old. I think one problem is that he just tries to tackle far too much material. This is really two books in one (Caelum's search for self and history; and Maureen's tenuous survival after the Columbine shootings). At times, Lamb gets a bit preachy and I'd rather he stick to what he knows best, people. But despite its size, I flew through the book. It's easy to read, and while almost every one of these characters has major conflicts; and do things that you really wish they would not (which makes you go, I like him, I dislike him, I like him, poor guy, what a jerk), by the end of the novel, you really feel like you travelled the paths these folks take. No one comes close, fictionally, to how Lamb delves into abnormal psychology, addiction and chaos. Highly recommended, but you must have a fairly strong emotional stomach, as it were. The shootings are hard to read about; as are a few other things.read more
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Wally Lamb has the ability to create an interwoven tapestry of plot lines which result in a profoundly meaningful experience for the reader. The main themes of this story are: love, chaos and the bifurcation it engenders. In this story, a butterfly truly creates a tidal wave over time. A couple of favorite phrases are, "When a woman surenders her freedom, she does not have to surrender her dignity" and "Sometimes when you're looking for what you want, you run smack into what you need." A complex, cross-generational, contemporary and relevant novel. Loved it!read more
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Wally Lamb is a master storyteller and can make 700 pages fly by. I enjoyed this almost as much as "I know This Much Is True". I look forward to reading "She's Come Undone" and Mr Lamb's newest book, "Wishin and Hopin". I don't know why I waited so long to try this author. Mr Lamb writes books that are meant to be read and enjoyed. Read the first page and you are lost, no turning back.Highly recommended.read more
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This may only be Wally Lamb’s third novel, he’s not exactly prolific, but like Dylan in the mid-sixties, everything he creates is a grand-slam. This one follows an English teacher named Caelum Quirk and his wife, Maureen, who both happen to work at Columbine High School. The story covers the massacre and the nasty fallout, as these shell-shocked characters attempt to pull their damaged lives back in order. This is only act I, in a sprawling narrative, that finds Caelum reaching back into his colorful family history to find strength and closure. The story spans over a hundred and fifty years and this includes visits with Mark Twain, King Ludwig, Gettysburg, Katrina and the Iraq war and that is just a few high-lights. Wally Lamb’s style reminds me of early John Irving, who is also proficient at lobbing tragic curve-balls, reminding us that death is always hovering nearby. Highly recommended!read more
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This book has received wonderful reviews from the critics and has been enthusiastically recommended by friends, but I was loathe to read a novel which used the Columbine Massacre as its raison d’être. I was wrong and everyone else was right: Caelum Quirk and his wife Maureen worked at Columbine High School in Colorado but on the day of the massacre he was in Connecticut, burying his aunt. In the aftermath, while Maureen is struggling with the trauma, Caelum takes her to the family farm where he uses old documents to discover past secrets. It might sound drear and depressing but, trust me, it’s an excellent read.read more
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Wally Lamb's editors should take a long, hard look at themselves and consider a career change. They have done Lamb and his readers a disservice by allowing the author to sink deep into hubris. The Hour I First Believed could have been a masterpiece; instead it includes far too many narrative threads and secondary characters, too many detours into bland territory and is simply too long. Lamb was clearly shooting for grand and landed on grandiose instead. The central storyline about Columbine and its ripple effects crackles along at a compelling pace that is sustained for a few hundred pages before Lamb and his characters wear out their welcome. THIFB isn't a bad book per se, but not recommended for readers new to the author. Both his previous novels are considerably better.read more
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It took me a while to get truly immersed into this book, but the wait was worth it. It sucked me in after a while, and I grew to really enjoy the writing and story. Wally Lamb may be a tad too raunchy and perverse for no reason at times for my liking, but if you can ignore, or don't mind, that bit, he really does create an engaging novel. I plan on checking out some of his other novels after this one, so if you are reading this and aren't sure whether to keep with it, I recommend that you do, it's worth it.read more
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Caelum Quirk is not a very sympathetic character. He drinks too much and is generally not very nice to his wife. That's all before his wife survives the Columbine shootings. Unfortunately, his attitude doesn't improve a whole lot afterward. Without giving away too many of the details, it's not until she winds up in jail and he's in the midst of learning about 5 generations worth of family secrets that he starts to act in a more sympathetic manner. It was a bit too late for me, though.Despite my difficulties with Caelum, I found the book itself to be very readable. Lamb weaves a lot of threads into his story which might have become overwhelming, but in his capable hands everything is resolved very naturally, and with a refreshing lack of pat answers. Lamb might have left a few plot points out of this long book without actually depriving the narrative of anything, but on the whole I was impressed.read more
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Recently I read a book called [The Shack] by William P Young. It was supposedly about why bad things happen to good people and it left my feeling as if I'd spent two days eating meringues. Now, if you really want to read about why bad things happen to good people, this is the book you should invest in, although at first I was a little put off by the title as it sounded horribly as if it might be another 'shack' in Lamb's clothing. I was wrong. Lamb is unafraid to tackle the really big themes; the book covers the Columbine shootings, 9/11, the Vietnam and Gulf wars and more. The protagonist's wife is one of the 'collaterally' damaged of Columbia. When the shooting begins, she is able to hide and, although she is witness to the terrible sounds of the mass slaughter that surround her, she survives, physically unhurt.But it is the aftermath of the shootings that really inform Lamb's novel; the post-traumatic stress disorder, survivor guilt and the lasting emotional effects the the shootings have on Caelum and his wife Mo. As they lurch from one tragedy to the next in a string of misfortunes Job would have understood, they also encounter the results of tragedy in their contemporaries and in Caelum's gradually unearthed family history. Another review here mentions that the writer has been criticised for his tendency to digress but I didn't find that a problem at all. It is the many digressions and tangents that turn a one-dimensional tale of personal tragedy like The Shack into an all-encompassing world of convincing characters and the tragedies that affect all of society. Not one charcter is without his or her own fascinating and relevant back-story and that is what makes this book such a gloriously 'meaty' read. It's my first book by this author and I can't wait now to read the rest.And, in case you're wondering what Lamb concludes about that 'bad things/good people' question, you'll just have to read the book yourselves, but I can tell you know that his conclusions, while they may probably be interpreted satisfactorily for church-goers and atheists alike, are a very long way from Young's simplistic ideas of that old white man/fat black woman sitting on a cloud.A terrific read and a book I'd highly recommend to almost anyone.read more
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Story OverviewThis is the story of Caelum Quirk -- a middle-aged teacher who is trying to come to terms with his present, his past and his troubled marriage. Married to Maureen (his third wife), Caelum's story begins with his troubles handling Maureen's infidelity. In an attempt to save their marriage, they leave their home in Connecticut and move to Littleton Colorado, where they work at Columbine High School. (Yes...that Columbine High School. Maureen is the school nurse and Caelum is an English teacher.) The move seems to help the marriage somewhat, but Caelum and Maureen still have moments of distance between them. Then Caelum's beloved aunt -- and his only link to his family -- suffers a stroke and Caelum returns to Connecticut to say goodbye. While in Connecticut, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold go on their well-publicized rampage in the high school.Panicked and unable to reach Maureen, Caelum returns in a panic to Littleton. He finally locates her, but she is a shell of her former self. Trapped in the library during the shootings, Maureen is unable to cope with the fact that she has survived. Maureen begins to unravel. Attempting to help Maureen deal with her post-traumatic stress disorder, Caelum moves them back to his aunt's house in Connecticut. There, Maureen continues to deteriorate while Caelum struggles to keep them financially afloat. During this time, Caelum discovers a secret family history that casts a new light on everything he thought was true about his family.My ThoughtsYou may be thinking "Wow, just go tell us the whole story, why don't you?" Believe me when I tell you that I just gave you the bare bones plot. There is A LOT going on in this book, which I think is ultimately its fatal flaw.Don't get me wrong. Wally Lamb is a fantastic writer, and I didn't once consider not finishing this book. However, there is so much going on that I felt that the novel suffered. There are long sections of the book devoted to Caelum's ancestor, Lillian Popper, and her experiences during the Civil War era. (These sections are either provided as diary entries or as excerpts from a "thesis" written by one of the characters.) There is a lengthy "transcript" from when Caelum interviews an older gentleman about the history of a cigarette company. There are subplots about Iraq war veterans, Hurricane Katrina victims, a prison, a family unable to accept their favored son's homosexuality, and Caelum's best friend's search for love and the perfect car. In short, there is material enough in this book for about three novels, but Lamb packs it all into one. Ultimately, I think this was a mistake. If Lamb wanted to write about Lillian Popper's life in such depth, perhaps he should have made this a separate novel.I also have an issue with some of the amazing coincidences that Lamb contrives for his characters. Isn't it just a little too convenient that the Hurricane Katrina victims he offers shelter to include a women's studies graduate student that pulls together the convoluted story of Caelum's family? And during one point, so much stuff happens at the same time that I just threw up my hands in disbelief.But...there is no getting around the fact that Wally Lamb is a gifted writer. In the case of this book, I felt like he just had too much to say and crammed it all together into one book. I felt it would have been enough to focus on Caelum and Maureen's marriage and their post-Columbine experiences. I think if the author had pulled out three of the different story threads (the Columbine story, the Lillian Popper story, the Iraq war veteran story), he could have had three distinct and more focused novels. As it is, you get it all in one big, sprawling book, and none of the stories get the attention and focus they deserve.My Final RecommendationUltimately, I cannot give this book a no-holds-barred recommendation. I wish I could have liked this book more because the writing itself is darn good, and I love how Lamb incorporates all the little details that squarely places his story in the time in which it was happening. But I really do think the book is flawed because of its sprawl and disjointed plot. Here's wishing Mr. Lamb's next book is a little more focused.read more
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I started this book thinking that it was "about Columbine." But it meanders far outside the contrived boundaries of April 1999 into so many rivulets that it is more than that, and less. The novel fails, ultimately, as it tries to do too much. The main character, as Lamb notes in the afterword, is in a complicated labyrinth made up of family history, social inequity, genetics, fabrications, and universal chaos. In the end, the narrative offers up the platitude of "hope" and boils down to the secret of life being able to cope with whatever it hands you. I'm not sorry I read it, but I couldn't say it will stick with me for long.read more
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I vaguely remember liking Lamb's earlier works although the details of the stories escape me completely. This novel could have been great but was only mediocre. This is largely because the author tried to include too much - the Columbine massacre, Hurricane Katrina, women's rights, PTSD, the penal system in America, the Civil War etc etc. Just too many distractions from what to me was the central story - how one couple moved from a point of limitless suffering to come out the other side with some hope of redemption - and then it all goes to hell in a handbasket. I found this novel a bit too saccharine for my liking despite its unending focus on sadness and disaster.read more
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Above all, this is a story of loyalty. Caelum Quirk and his wife, Maureen, work at Columbine high school; he as a teacher and she as a part-time nurse. She is in the school while the shootings take place; he is out of town at the funeral of the aunt who raised him.As I read the story of Maureen's PTSD, her subsequent addiction to medication and her arrest for manslaughter, I was continually moved by Caelum's unwavering love and support for her. Even though she had had an affair that nearly ended their marriage. Even as he learns that his family has lied to him about his birth. Caelum isn't perfect, but he is loyal to his wife.Wally Lamb is an excellent writer who plumbs the depths of his characters and of their histories. Like some other reviewers, I got a bit tired of the story of Caelum's great-great-great Grandmother, and even had to draw myself a quick family tree to keep track of who was who. But it was interesting to contrast that portrayal with that of Maureen's, who severed all ties with her family and largely existed, in her own mind, only since Columbine.I could hardly put the book down.read more
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This was an emotional trip back to 1999 and Columbine High School. Lamb has the ability to suck the reader into the story so one feels the anguish in the aftermath of tragedy. By focusing on a school nurse who saved herself by hiding, he could relate how post-stress disorder can totally disrupt a person's life along with the lives of the people around them. This kind of deep pain just doesn't go away.Lamb binds together a painful story with elements of fact and fiction, mythology, nature, and long-held family secrets. But hope and love form the soul of this unforgettable epic. Unforgettable, but not Lamb's best work. The backstory of Caelum's famy was marginally interesting, however, it made the book overly long and fragmented. This was Maureen's story, and I wish the focus had remained on her struggle for healing her fractured life.read more
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I am a Wally Lamb fan, but I did not think this was up to his standard. Soooooo long, I was getting bored and wanted to skip some pages. Should have stuck with the Columbine story instead of going in too many directions. I also found myself not being as compassionate towards the characters as I would like to think I would be in "real" life.read more
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I picked up this book because I remember really enjoying Lamb's first novel, but was fairly disappointed with this one. All that profanity (even from the main character who is an ENGLISH TEACHER) is generally quite a turn-off to me. Going back into the main character''s history all those generations and introducing so many additional characters was for me a distraction. A pretty sad book overall with many pathetic situations made this book pretty much of a downer, although it had a few redeeming values.read more
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I breezed through this 700+ pages and completely forgot the central story (the Columbine massacre) until it was introduced - Mr. Lamb's story of Quirk was that engrossing. I enjoyed the insertion of Quirk's family history through century-old letters and the fictional publisher of his first (and only) novel was Simon & Schuster but Mr. Lamb's book was published by Harper Collins.
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I found this book an easy read. I also thought that the many little sub stories took away from the main theme. I started to lose the main story line. I much prefer generational books to start from the first generation to the present day. I started to forget who was who.
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i am so surprised and disappointed that i didn't finish this book. when i first started reading i was thinking "wow, this is definitely going to be a five star book." i loved it. then, about 400 pages in all these new characters started popping up and i just couldn't get into their story. so i feel that if mr. lamb would've made the book shorter i would've absolutely loved it. i still love his writing though and will still read more books of his in the future if he continues to write.
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Wally Lamb creates characters who become real as they are revealed on the page. When thinking about the book between readings, it was like revisiting acquaintances I was getting to know intimately. There are twists and turns, history that is revealed and unraveled like the labyrinth that he alludes to in the novel.

It's a book that took ten years to write, and these pages contain those ten years. Not only is does it delve into the family history of the characters for the past century, it revisits the occurances that have shaped the past decade of our country's history; in this way, just by reading, you also become a character. There are moments of repitition in the story--perhaps needed, in a book this long, and which jumps around this much, but a bit much for certain points.

Overall, a moving and intriguing book.
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This is a brilliant book that covers a great deal of ground emotionally and chronologically. It begins with a couple deeply affected by the Columbine shootings, and moves from there to the history of a family, addiction, and a long-held mystery. Wally Lamb obviously learned a great deal from the female prisoners whose writing he mentored, and the incorporation of this experience into the novel is essential to the plot. He is unsurpassed in allowing his readers to know what the characters feel and the impact on their subsequent actions. I loved his previous books and this one is no exception. I only hope we don't have to wait so long before his next book is published. I will remember this book for a very long time.
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This is not a book I would have picked up to read but it was a Book Group selection so dutifully read. I'm glad I did. The book is about Caelum and Maureen Quirk, teacher and school nurse at Columbine. He is absent on the fateful day and she was a survivor. The author writes with great clarity on the event at the school itself, the history of the shooters and the impact on the whole community. Lamb details the impact of Maureen's post-traumatic stress on her husband and marriage, her downward spiral and ultimate tragedy. The story is told from Caelum's point of view and the reader gets to experience his slow understanding of himself and his behavior. My biggest problem with the book comes with the second half. Lamb leaves his original story and veers off on a related but essentially separate story of Caelum's history and exploration of his family through the discovery of some old family documents. I found myself skipping ahead to try to figure out who these people were that he was writing about. This could have been done as a sequel.
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I love Wally Lamb. This is a fantastic book looking into the fallout of trauma. Great characters with so much pulled from his time working in the womens prison.
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I just finished reading Wally Lamb's newest creation, The Hour I First Believed. I was very moved by this book. Lamb doesn't let his characters off easy. They have hard lives and have to make hard choices. His first two books, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, are witness to this. In those first two books, the main characters are often dealing with one personal tragedy that has made their life spin out of control. The same is true for The Hour I First Believed, with the exception that the first trauma is more like a jumping point. Life will not only never be the same, it's almost impossible to stop the following tragedies that are a result of the first.The book is about a couple, Caelum (teacher) and Maureen Quirk (school nurse), who are witnesses to the Columbine massacre. Caelum is out of town seeing to his aunt's funeral when he sees the footage on television and rushes home to find out if his wife, students, and colleagues are still alive. Maureen is still alive, but having been in the library during the shooting, she is a different woman when she walks out of the school than she was when she walked in that day. (This is all on the cover, so I'm not spoiling anything!)Although Caelum and Maureen are fictional characters, many of the real victims are featured in the story. Lamb takes the time to detail exactly what happened that day and the planning that went into it by the two boys for those who may not have spent every minute in front of the television watching it unfold as it happened (as I did). Ironically, it is Caelum that makes the statement that although many kids are bullied, they don't go out and commit mass murder while Maureen (briefly) sees why it might happen in the first place. In her role as school nurse, she has been giving comfort to the students who feel like outsiders. Maureen's PTSD is debilitating in the aftermath and Caelum's life is turned in so many directions that it can't even be called up-side-down. The later tragedies of 9/11 and Katrina make appearances in the story as well as the Civil War.I saw a review that stated Lamb takes too many tangents from the main storyline. I didn't feel that was the case at all. Every generation in Caelum's family, going aback to the civil war, has a prominent role at one point in the story. However, I don't feel these were "tangents" but integral parts of a story that would have been incomplete without them. It is true that his and Maureen's story could have been told well without these bits of history and the book may have been much shorter but I felt that Lamb was making the point with these "tangents." We are not solely the product of our parents and those who have been in our lives from birth but every major decision in the lives of those before us, continues to affect us whether we realize it or not. Those people made decisions that would have made our own lives very different if another choice was made.I waited a long time for this book, having greatly enjoyed his first two, and Wally Lamb did not disappoint.
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The book is about a middle-aged couple--he's a Literature teacher in high schools and colleges and prisons, and she's a nurse in high schools, clinics, and prisons. They are working at a Colorado high school in April 1999. He has to go back east on a Sunday to attend to his aunt's funeral arrangements; she stays behind and is going to catch up to him the next Tuesday. But then there is a violent event at the high school, and mass attack with bombs and guns, perpetrated by two students--you know who I am talking about by now, probably--whom the teacher knows. They were in some of his classes, and he sees them working at a pizza joint the before he leaves to his home State of Connecticut.Since his wife is at the school in direct contact with the shooters on the day of the rampage, April 20, 1999, the first portion of the book deals directly with the aftermath, including her Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder, as well as addiction to prescription drugs. She has a new traumatic incident when she has a traffic accident while under the influence of drugs. Her husband is dragged into her troubles. Although he does love her, he finds it hard to commit to her increased needs for support. The book is gut-wrenching; I have no concept whatever of what it could be like for the survivors of mass violence. This book gives some vicarious taste of what that might be like. More and more people around the world are living through this as a daily event. God help us. Or somebody out there help us. It is encouraging to see how these two flawed individuals can build each other up along with the support of extended family and of friends.
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I have just finished "The hour I first believed" and I am sitting in front of the computer with contradictory feelings. As a declared fan of Lamb's former novels, I still think he is a genius in portraying the human soul. His grasp of emotional intelligence and his skill in exposing human nature and its inner ups and downs, are masterly laid out to the reader in both a crude and tender way. The same as in his previous novels, you end up knowing each character as if it was a real human being, with its own flaws and limitations.Having said that, I also have to admit that if this had been my first novel by Lamb, I might not have been so taken up with the author. The formula doesn't work as much as it does in "I know this much is true" or in "She's come undone". With Lamb's last work, I had to force myself to keep on reading as there where some tedious passages difficult to absorb. The thing is that there's material in this book for at least eight different novels:The story of Caelum Quirk, a teacher at Columbine High School at the time of the shootings in April 1999, and his wife Maureen, who also works there as a nurse and who survives the shootings while Caelum is called away by an urgent family business. I was completely shaken by the description of the killings, the facts were exposed in a journalist's style, without literary ornaments, which made all the recollection more real and hard to take in.After the killings we witness Maureen's psychological decay and Caelum's futile attempts to bring his estranged wife back to normality again. In a nearly decomposing marriage, they decide to move to the old Quirk's family farm in Connecticut.The story starts to get complicated when Maureen is incarcerated for killing a boy while driving under the effect of some anti-depressants and Caelum is left alone in the farm with the heavy burden of his old ancestors, who hide dark secrets which will change Caelum's understanding of life.Let's say the book could be more like and essay regarding controversial and actual subjects such as gratuity violence in schools, the condemnation of wars and the abuse of power, the ethical concept of victim or guilty and whether the punishing system is fair, and finally, the whole American history seen through the eyes of Caelum's ancestors.Mix all that complicate subjects with the emotional display of a deeply well described character who goes through all kind of dreadful events and who has to learn to overcome them, emerging a wiser but a humbler person. Caelum comes to accept the inevitable but also, for the first time in his life, starts to believe.So, a too much ambitious project? Maybe too presumptuous? I don't know the answers.I only can say that I was moved by the end of the story, and if a novel can make you feel something it means that the message gets through somehow.All in all, a difficult but a humbling experience, maybe not for a five stars rate, but still worth the effort."Beware! He who goes questing for what he wants may discover, along the way, what he needs.""Our ancestors move along with us, in underground rivers and springs too deep for chaos to reach.""What I do know is that we are powerless to whoever or whatever god is."
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I have very mixed feelings about this book. I think that is mainly because it felt like it was a book within a book and there were so many different strands of the overall story that it felt like almost too much and a little overwhelming. I thought this was going to be a book about the after effects of Columbine on a couple of the characters, but it ended up being so much more than that. That is not necessarily a bad thing and Wally Lamb is clearly a very able writer who is able to hold a story together well so that it pieces all together.I think the main thing I didn't like about the book was the voice of the narrator. I found him irritating, slightly misogynistic and overall, not very likeable. I THINK that was supposed to be on purpose, but it felt very obvious (like, glaring in your face obvious) from the start, that the main character would be going through a big emotional crisis that would make him talk about his feelings and he would hopefully, by the end of the book, be a bit less of a jerk. It all felt a little bit cliched.That said, this was still a good, engrossing read. The characters from the narrator's ancestry came to life so well that I had to Google them for myself to make sure they weren't real! The story was full of surprises and despite my complaints, I would not dismiss any future books from Wally Lamb.
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Spoiler alert…If there’s one word to describe this book, it’s “joyless.” After seven hundred pages of painful reminiscing about tragic deaths, troubled teens, Columbine, and depression, the main character reaches a solemn conclusion about life and it’s one hope. Life’s redeeming quality is an enduring hope for a better future.Caelum, Wally’s first-person character, struggles to understand. “God: big G, little g? Buddha? Allah? The Holy Trinity? Is god the DNA we bring forth? The genes that mutate on the cliff’s edge of chaos? Beats me.” Caelum slides not-so-gently into old age by book’s end, nearly everything taken from him, and finally reaches acceptance.Leave this book to the psychologists; it’s a downer. I wouldn’t review it except that it did resonate with me in one way. For some, the only imaginable “better future” is heaven. Some say that my brand of Christianity and its focus on our earthly life serves only to rob others of faith. Heaven is a dream held out to all who find themselves buried under life’s hopelessness. Do we truly need our dreams of heaven, and if so, am I performing a disservice by promoting the humanitarian side of Christianity over the supernatural? Am I stealing the joy of the next life from believers in the same way Wally steals our joy in this life?I confess, it sometimes troubles me.
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Deep and pretty depressing
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This is a massive book which begins with Caellum Quirk a teacher at Littleton ,Colorado conversing with a former student who goes on to become one of the Columbine killers. His wife, Maureen is then caught up in the tragedy which leaves her shell shocked and suffering PTSD . There are many threads to the story, a young troubled teen who adopts Maureen as her mother, financial woes have Caellum let out the upstairs rooms of his house to a couple fleeing hurricane Katrina, Caellum finds some old diaries that have links to his past about his true identity within his family etc etc...... The novel loses some focus at times on the central characters and I found flat spots where it became a bit frustrating and I put it down for a while to read other books but it is ultimately worth the effort and hence the high score I believe it deserves. Oprah will love it.
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I am a huge Wally Lamb fan, so when I heard this was coming out, I was beside myself. This is a very good novel, but not a great one. It unravels a bit towards the end and the unreal amount of tragic things that happen to our protagonist are well, pretty unreal. But like all of his books, this is an author who knows how to explore the undercurrents that drive human beings, both genders, young and old. I think one problem is that he just tries to tackle far too much material. This is really two books in one (Caelum's search for self and history; and Maureen's tenuous survival after the Columbine shootings). At times, Lamb gets a bit preachy and I'd rather he stick to what he knows best, people. But despite its size, I flew through the book. It's easy to read, and while almost every one of these characters has major conflicts; and do things that you really wish they would not (which makes you go, I like him, I dislike him, I like him, poor guy, what a jerk), by the end of the novel, you really feel like you travelled the paths these folks take. No one comes close, fictionally, to how Lamb delves into abnormal psychology, addiction and chaos. Highly recommended, but you must have a fairly strong emotional stomach, as it were. The shootings are hard to read about; as are a few other things.
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Wally Lamb has the ability to create an interwoven tapestry of plot lines which result in a profoundly meaningful experience for the reader. The main themes of this story are: love, chaos and the bifurcation it engenders. In this story, a butterfly truly creates a tidal wave over time. A couple of favorite phrases are, "When a woman surenders her freedom, she does not have to surrender her dignity" and "Sometimes when you're looking for what you want, you run smack into what you need." A complex, cross-generational, contemporary and relevant novel. Loved it!
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Wally Lamb is a master storyteller and can make 700 pages fly by. I enjoyed this almost as much as "I know This Much Is True". I look forward to reading "She's Come Undone" and Mr Lamb's newest book, "Wishin and Hopin". I don't know why I waited so long to try this author. Mr Lamb writes books that are meant to be read and enjoyed. Read the first page and you are lost, no turning back.Highly recommended.
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This may only be Wally Lamb’s third novel, he’s not exactly prolific, but like Dylan in the mid-sixties, everything he creates is a grand-slam. This one follows an English teacher named Caelum Quirk and his wife, Maureen, who both happen to work at Columbine High School. The story covers the massacre and the nasty fallout, as these shell-shocked characters attempt to pull their damaged lives back in order. This is only act I, in a sprawling narrative, that finds Caelum reaching back into his colorful family history to find strength and closure. The story spans over a hundred and fifty years and this includes visits with Mark Twain, King Ludwig, Gettysburg, Katrina and the Iraq war and that is just a few high-lights. Wally Lamb’s style reminds me of early John Irving, who is also proficient at lobbing tragic curve-balls, reminding us that death is always hovering nearby. Highly recommended!
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This book has received wonderful reviews from the critics and has been enthusiastically recommended by friends, but I was loathe to read a novel which used the Columbine Massacre as its raison d’être. I was wrong and everyone else was right: Caelum Quirk and his wife Maureen worked at Columbine High School in Colorado but on the day of the massacre he was in Connecticut, burying his aunt. In the aftermath, while Maureen is struggling with the trauma, Caelum takes her to the family farm where he uses old documents to discover past secrets. It might sound drear and depressing but, trust me, it’s an excellent read.
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Wally Lamb's editors should take a long, hard look at themselves and consider a career change. They have done Lamb and his readers a disservice by allowing the author to sink deep into hubris. The Hour I First Believed could have been a masterpiece; instead it includes far too many narrative threads and secondary characters, too many detours into bland territory and is simply too long. Lamb was clearly shooting for grand and landed on grandiose instead. The central storyline about Columbine and its ripple effects crackles along at a compelling pace that is sustained for a few hundred pages before Lamb and his characters wear out their welcome. THIFB isn't a bad book per se, but not recommended for readers new to the author. Both his previous novels are considerably better.
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It took me a while to get truly immersed into this book, but the wait was worth it. It sucked me in after a while, and I grew to really enjoy the writing and story. Wally Lamb may be a tad too raunchy and perverse for no reason at times for my liking, but if you can ignore, or don't mind, that bit, he really does create an engaging novel. I plan on checking out some of his other novels after this one, so if you are reading this and aren't sure whether to keep with it, I recommend that you do, it's worth it.
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Caelum Quirk is not a very sympathetic character. He drinks too much and is generally not very nice to his wife. That's all before his wife survives the Columbine shootings. Unfortunately, his attitude doesn't improve a whole lot afterward. Without giving away too many of the details, it's not until she winds up in jail and he's in the midst of learning about 5 generations worth of family secrets that he starts to act in a more sympathetic manner. It was a bit too late for me, though.Despite my difficulties with Caelum, I found the book itself to be very readable. Lamb weaves a lot of threads into his story which might have become overwhelming, but in his capable hands everything is resolved very naturally, and with a refreshing lack of pat answers. Lamb might have left a few plot points out of this long book without actually depriving the narrative of anything, but on the whole I was impressed.
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Recently I read a book called [The Shack] by William P Young. It was supposedly about why bad things happen to good people and it left my feeling as if I'd spent two days eating meringues. Now, if you really want to read about why bad things happen to good people, this is the book you should invest in, although at first I was a little put off by the title as it sounded horribly as if it might be another 'shack' in Lamb's clothing. I was wrong. Lamb is unafraid to tackle the really big themes; the book covers the Columbine shootings, 9/11, the Vietnam and Gulf wars and more. The protagonist's wife is one of the 'collaterally' damaged of Columbia. When the shooting begins, she is able to hide and, although she is witness to the terrible sounds of the mass slaughter that surround her, she survives, physically unhurt.But it is the aftermath of the shootings that really inform Lamb's novel; the post-traumatic stress disorder, survivor guilt and the lasting emotional effects the the shootings have on Caelum and his wife Mo. As they lurch from one tragedy to the next in a string of misfortunes Job would have understood, they also encounter the results of tragedy in their contemporaries and in Caelum's gradually unearthed family history. Another review here mentions that the writer has been criticised for his tendency to digress but I didn't find that a problem at all. It is the many digressions and tangents that turn a one-dimensional tale of personal tragedy like The Shack into an all-encompassing world of convincing characters and the tragedies that affect all of society. Not one charcter is without his or her own fascinating and relevant back-story and that is what makes this book such a gloriously 'meaty' read. It's my first book by this author and I can't wait now to read the rest.And, in case you're wondering what Lamb concludes about that 'bad things/good people' question, you'll just have to read the book yourselves, but I can tell you know that his conclusions, while they may probably be interpreted satisfactorily for church-goers and atheists alike, are a very long way from Young's simplistic ideas of that old white man/fat black woman sitting on a cloud.A terrific read and a book I'd highly recommend to almost anyone.
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Story OverviewThis is the story of Caelum Quirk -- a middle-aged teacher who is trying to come to terms with his present, his past and his troubled marriage. Married to Maureen (his third wife), Caelum's story begins with his troubles handling Maureen's infidelity. In an attempt to save their marriage, they leave their home in Connecticut and move to Littleton Colorado, where they work at Columbine High School. (Yes...that Columbine High School. Maureen is the school nurse and Caelum is an English teacher.) The move seems to help the marriage somewhat, but Caelum and Maureen still have moments of distance between them. Then Caelum's beloved aunt -- and his only link to his family -- suffers a stroke and Caelum returns to Connecticut to say goodbye. While in Connecticut, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold go on their well-publicized rampage in the high school.Panicked and unable to reach Maureen, Caelum returns in a panic to Littleton. He finally locates her, but she is a shell of her former self. Trapped in the library during the shootings, Maureen is unable to cope with the fact that she has survived. Maureen begins to unravel. Attempting to help Maureen deal with her post-traumatic stress disorder, Caelum moves them back to his aunt's house in Connecticut. There, Maureen continues to deteriorate while Caelum struggles to keep them financially afloat. During this time, Caelum discovers a secret family history that casts a new light on everything he thought was true about his family.My ThoughtsYou may be thinking "Wow, just go tell us the whole story, why don't you?" Believe me when I tell you that I just gave you the bare bones plot. There is A LOT going on in this book, which I think is ultimately its fatal flaw.Don't get me wrong. Wally Lamb is a fantastic writer, and I didn't once consider not finishing this book. However, there is so much going on that I felt that the novel suffered. There are long sections of the book devoted to Caelum's ancestor, Lillian Popper, and her experiences during the Civil War era. (These sections are either provided as diary entries or as excerpts from a "thesis" written by one of the characters.) There is a lengthy "transcript" from when Caelum interviews an older gentleman about the history of a cigarette company. There are subplots about Iraq war veterans, Hurricane Katrina victims, a prison, a family unable to accept their favored son's homosexuality, and Caelum's best friend's search for love and the perfect car. In short, there is material enough in this book for about three novels, but Lamb packs it all into one. Ultimately, I think this was a mistake. If Lamb wanted to write about Lillian Popper's life in such depth, perhaps he should have made this a separate novel.I also have an issue with some of the amazing coincidences that Lamb contrives for his characters. Isn't it just a little too convenient that the Hurricane Katrina victims he offers shelter to include a women's studies graduate student that pulls together the convoluted story of Caelum's family? And during one point, so much stuff happens at the same time that I just threw up my hands in disbelief.But...there is no getting around the fact that Wally Lamb is a gifted writer. In the case of this book, I felt like he just had too much to say and crammed it all together into one book. I felt it would have been enough to focus on Caelum and Maureen's marriage and their post-Columbine experiences. I think if the author had pulled out three of the different story threads (the Columbine story, the Lillian Popper story, the Iraq war veteran story), he could have had three distinct and more focused novels. As it is, you get it all in one big, sprawling book, and none of the stories get the attention and focus they deserve.My Final RecommendationUltimately, I cannot give this book a no-holds-barred recommendation. I wish I could have liked this book more because the writing itself is darn good, and I love how Lamb incorporates all the little details that squarely places his story in the time in which it was happening. But I really do think the book is flawed because of its sprawl and disjointed plot. Here's wishing Mr. Lamb's next book is a little more focused.
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I started this book thinking that it was "about Columbine." But it meanders far outside the contrived boundaries of April 1999 into so many rivulets that it is more than that, and less. The novel fails, ultimately, as it tries to do too much. The main character, as Lamb notes in the afterword, is in a complicated labyrinth made up of family history, social inequity, genetics, fabrications, and universal chaos. In the end, the narrative offers up the platitude of "hope" and boils down to the secret of life being able to cope with whatever it hands you. I'm not sorry I read it, but I couldn't say it will stick with me for long.
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I vaguely remember liking Lamb's earlier works although the details of the stories escape me completely. This novel could have been great but was only mediocre. This is largely because the author tried to include too much - the Columbine massacre, Hurricane Katrina, women's rights, PTSD, the penal system in America, the Civil War etc etc. Just too many distractions from what to me was the central story - how one couple moved from a point of limitless suffering to come out the other side with some hope of redemption - and then it all goes to hell in a handbasket. I found this novel a bit too saccharine for my liking despite its unending focus on sadness and disaster.
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Above all, this is a story of loyalty. Caelum Quirk and his wife, Maureen, work at Columbine high school; he as a teacher and she as a part-time nurse. She is in the school while the shootings take place; he is out of town at the funeral of the aunt who raised him.As I read the story of Maureen's PTSD, her subsequent addiction to medication and her arrest for manslaughter, I was continually moved by Caelum's unwavering love and support for her. Even though she had had an affair that nearly ended their marriage. Even as he learns that his family has lied to him about his birth. Caelum isn't perfect, but he is loyal to his wife.Wally Lamb is an excellent writer who plumbs the depths of his characters and of their histories. Like some other reviewers, I got a bit tired of the story of Caelum's great-great-great Grandmother, and even had to draw myself a quick family tree to keep track of who was who. But it was interesting to contrast that portrayal with that of Maureen's, who severed all ties with her family and largely existed, in her own mind, only since Columbine.I could hardly put the book down.
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This was an emotional trip back to 1999 and Columbine High School. Lamb has the ability to suck the reader into the story so one feels the anguish in the aftermath of tragedy. By focusing on a school nurse who saved herself by hiding, he could relate how post-stress disorder can totally disrupt a person's life along with the lives of the people around them. This kind of deep pain just doesn't go away.Lamb binds together a painful story with elements of fact and fiction, mythology, nature, and long-held family secrets. But hope and love form the soul of this unforgettable epic. Unforgettable, but not Lamb's best work. The backstory of Caelum's famy was marginally interesting, however, it made the book overly long and fragmented. This was Maureen's story, and I wish the focus had remained on her struggle for healing her fractured life.
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I am a Wally Lamb fan, but I did not think this was up to his standard. Soooooo long, I was getting bored and wanted to skip some pages. Should have stuck with the Columbine story instead of going in too many directions. I also found myself not being as compassionate towards the characters as I would like to think I would be in "real" life.
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I picked up this book because I remember really enjoying Lamb's first novel, but was fairly disappointed with this one. All that profanity (even from the main character who is an ENGLISH TEACHER) is generally quite a turn-off to me. Going back into the main character''s history all those generations and introducing so many additional characters was for me a distraction. A pretty sad book overall with many pathetic situations made this book pretty much of a downer, although it had a few redeeming values.
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