The Hour I First Believed

( 604 )

Overview

Wally Lamb's two previous novels, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, struck a chord with readers. They responded to the intensely introspective nature of the books, and to their lively narrative styles and biting humor. One critic called Wally Lamb a "modern-day Dostoyevsky," whose characters struggle not only with their respective pasts, but with a "mocking, sadistic God" in whom they don't believe but to whom they turn, ...
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Overview

Wally Lamb's two previous novels, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, struck a chord with readers. They responded to the intensely introspective nature of the books, and to their lively narrative styles and biting humor. One critic called Wally Lamb a "modern-day Dostoyevsky," whose characters struggle not only with their respective pasts, but with a "mocking, sadistic God" in whom they don't believe but to whom they turn, nevertheless, in times of trouble (New York Times).

In The Hour I First Believed, Lamb travels well beyond his earlier work and embodies in his fiction myth, psychology, family history stretching back many generations, and the questions of faith that lie at the heart of everyday life. The result is an extraordinary tour de force, at once a meditation on the human condition and an unflinching yet compassionate evocation of character.

When forty-seven-year-old high school teacher Caelum Quirk and his younger wife, Maureen, a school nurse, move to Littleton, Colorado, they both get jobs at Columbine High School. In April 1999, Caelum returns home to Three Rivers, Connecticut, to be with his aunt who has just had a stroke. But Maureen finds herself in the school library at Columbine, cowering in a cabinet and expecting to be killed, as two vengeful students go on a carefully premeditated, murderous rampage. Miraculously she survives, but at a cost: she is unable to recover from the trauma. Caelum and Maureen flee Colorado and return to an illusion of safety at the Quirk family farm in Three Rivers. But the effects of chaos are not so easily put right, and further tragedy ensues.

While Maureen fights to regain her sanity, Caelum discovers a cache of old diaries, letters, and newspaper clippings in an upstairs bedroom of his family's house. The colorful and intriguing story they recount spans five generations of Quirk family ancestors, from the Civil War era to Caelum's own troubled childhood. Piece by piece, Caelum reconstructs the lives of the women and men whose legacy he bears. Unimaginable secrets emerge; long-buried fear, anger, guilt, and grief rise to the surface.

As Caelum grapples with unexpected and confounding revelations from the past, he also struggles to fashion a future out of the ashes of tragedy. His personal quest for meaning and faith becomes a mythic journey that is at the same time quintessentially contemporary -- and American.

The Hour I First Believed is a profound and heart-rending work of fiction. Wally Lamb proves himself a virtuoso storyteller, assembling a variety of voices and an ensemble of characters rich enough to evoke all of humanity.
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  • The Hour I First Believed
    The Hour I First Believed  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Lamb’s third novel tackles the Columbine high school shooting head on as he places his fictional protagonists into the horrific events of April 1999. Caelum and his wife, Maureen, move to Colorado for teaching jobs at Columbine not long before the shootings. As the events unfold, Maureen finds herself in harms way but luckily survives, only to be haunted by the occurrence. Narrator George Guidall reads with an earnest, familiar voice. He draws listeners into this fascinating tale with nothing more than raw emotion and honesty; rarely does such a straightforward performance tap into the human psyche so effectively. A HarperCollins hardcover. (Nov.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
A glacially paced novel of modern manners and mayhem, its chief elements being middle-aged angst, mass murder and pizza. Like Jack Torrance of Stephen King's The Shining, Caelum Quirk is a man of ambition who moved to Colorado to find his fortune and wound up teaching creative writing to the unwilling. At the beginning of the book, we learn that Caelum's wife, Maureen, has been engaging in certain extracurricular activities. While Caelum does not take an ax to the offending parties, he is consigned to the hell of anger-management courses all the same. For her part, Maureen discovers horror when violence erupts at the school where she works-namely, Columbine High, in the tidy Denver suburb of Littleton. Caelum, a teacher, is absent, attending to a sick aunt across the country. While doing so, and over the course of much time and much talk among many characters, Maureen reckons with having become unhinged while Caelum discovers ominous clippings in the family archive. Lamb (I Know This Much Is True, 1998, etc.) writes at considerable leisure about all this; indeed, the gunfire starts 150 pages into the narrative. Meanwhile and after, there is much pondering. Lamb knows how to put together a good, meaning-charged sentence ("I've stalked the monster during long, meditative runs on country roads, at the bottoms of wine and scotch bottles, and over the Internet, that labyrinth inside the labyrinth"), but there are plenty of clunkers, too. Moreover, the takeaway point isn't quite clear: Lamb seems to be suggesting that inside every one of us, or at least every family, there's a Dylan Klebold screaming to get out and plenty of skeletons for too few closets. A clearer focus and a forgone subplotor two would have helped. Of interest, however, as an entry in the body of literature that has emerged from real tragedy. Agent: Kassie Evashevski/Brillstein-Grey
Miami Herald
“A soaring novel as amazingly graceful as the classic hymn that provides the title”
Columbus Dispatch
“Wally Lamb is a remarkable talent.”
Dallas Morning News
“Every character is rendered with vivid, utterly convincing depth. . . . A heck of a page-turner.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Lamb . . . has delivered a tour de force, his best yet. A”
Rocky Mountain News
“Lamb does an extraordinary job narrating some of the most terrifying tragedies of the past 10 years....an epic journey. Grade: A.”
Knoxville News-Sentinel
“When you put Lamb’s newest novel down, it will be reluctantly. It’s that good.”
Craig Wilson
“A page-turner. . . . Lamb remains a storyteller at the top of his game.”
Gail Pennington
“Too compelling to put down . . . a richly textured story . . . moving, funny, and completely unpredictable.”
Corrie Pikul
“Lamb, a maestro of orchestrating emotion . . . knows how to make his fans’ hearts sing.”
Cherie Parker
“Lamb has crafted another affecting, engrossing tome about complicated, interesting characters.”
The Barnes & Noble Review
In the afterword to The Hour I First Believed, Wally Lamb says his long career in teaching influenced his decision to center his new book on the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, in which Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and one teacher before taking their own lives. For Lamb, the project forced some quite personal reflections:

Could I have acted as courageously as teacher Dave Sanders, who sacrificed his life in the act of shepherding students to safety? Would I have had the strength to attend those memorials and funerals to which I sent my protagonist?

Delving into the enigma of the killers' motives, he points to the challenge that a novelistic treatment of the tragedy entailed:

The depth and scope of Harris and Klebold's rage, and the twisted logic by which they convinced themselves that their slaughter of the innocent was justified, both frightened and confounded me. I felt it necessary to confront the "two-headed monster" itself, rather than concoct Harris- and Klebold-like characters. Were these middle-class kids merely sick, or were they evil?....Why all this rage? Why all these deaths and broken-hearted survivors?

Lamb asks worthy questions. Unfortunately for readers, he appears to have grown frustrated by his inability to answer them, because this 723-page book, which starts off with its focus on Columbine, devolves into a loose, baggy social-historical novel that spans two centuries and somehow manages to address at length such disparate issues as the Civil War, the advent of women's prisons in America, Hurricane Katrina, and the Iraq War. The specters of Harris and Klebold, so stark and affecting in the early pages of this book, recede with every tangential plotline.

The tenuous thread tying this all together is middle-aged English teacher Caelum Quirk, a thrice-married Connecticut native whose gravestone should probably read, "Romeo has nothing on me. Here lies fortune's foe." Example: His alcoholic father died when Caelum was 14, because the old man was fishing on a railroad bridge, passed out drunk, got hit by train, lost both legs, and bled to death.

As in Lamb's two previous novels, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, messy, star-crossed lives are the norm, not the exception. We first meet Caelum and his third wife, Maureen, after their relocation from Connecticut to Littleton, where Caelum is an English teacher at Columbine and Maureen is a school nurse. Back in Connecticut, their marriage had been foundering. Maureen had cheated on Caelum, and he got revenge by attacking his wife's lover; in turn, Caelum lost his teaching job. Hoping to revive their marriage (and to escape the gossip of small-town Three Rivers), he and Maureen move to Littleton. Why there? Because Maureen wants to be close to her father, who's remarried and lives in Denver -- and who, after Maureen's mother died, used to sneak into his 11-year-old daughter's room and masturbate before her.

This is among the first of many confounding plot developments in this novel -- twists that complicate the narrative but ultimately distort to little purpose and generate no sympathy for the characters.

Much of that complication arises in the retrospective unfolding of Caelum and Maureen's lives back in Connecticut, where they resided on the Quirk family farm, a 200-acre tract that also contains a 50-acre maximum-security women's prison. The story behind the prison (not to mention its convenient location, right down the road from the family's house) will play an enormous, exasperating role in the second half of the novel. The Quick Correctional Institute -- named in honor of Caelum's reform-minded female ancestors -- is also the workplace of Caelum's beloved aunt, Lolly, last in a line of family members who worked at the prison. With his mother dead of cancer and his childhood memories in the shadow of a withholding family overall, Lolly is the only relation who hasn't contributed to Caelum's jaded personality. In the beginning of The Hour I First Believed, the protagonist certainly doesn't believe in much, least of all God.

In April 1999, these plot threads intersect: Lolly suffers a stroke, so Caelum returns to Connecticut to take care of her. While he's gone, Harris and Klebold go on their rage-fueled rampage.

They'd been planning it for a year, hiding their intentions in plain sight on paper, on videotape, over the Internet. In their junior year, one had written in the other's yearbook, "God, I can't wait till they die. I can taste the blood now." And the other had answered, "Killing enemies, blowing up stuff, killing cops! My wrath will be godlike!"

When the attack starts, Maureen is in the library, the site of the worst carnage. As Harris and Klebold mock and antagonize their victims, asking them if they believe in God, Maureen hides in a cabinet. Caelum, back in Connecticut and watching the harrowing footage on television, has no idea if she's alive or dead, so he races back to Colorado.

Maureen survives the library scene, but she's a shell of her former self. She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. She can't sleep and has headaches and nausea. Certain smells and loud noises trigger flashbacks. On a trip to Home Depot, the scent of the lumber department reminds her of the inside of the library cabinet, where she'd hid and prayed. "Afraid," she says. "I'm always afraid." She becomes addicted to medication, while Caelum starts drinking more than usual.

Back in Connecticut, Lolly dies, and the farm with its tangled legal situation passes to Caelum. He decides that the safety of the estate -- far away from Littleton and everything Columbine-related -- is the best thing for his wife. Regrettably, the move does nothing for the momentum of this novel, which soon sinks beneath rediscovered family letters and diaries (many of them included in the book); uninteresting questions about Caelum's actual parents; and schmaltzy plot developments, e.g., a husband and wife, refugees from Hurricane Katrina, come to live on the farm, and the wife, a postgraduate women's studies major at Tulane, writes her master's thesis on Caelum's ancestors, in turn helping Caelum understand his past and (perhaps) himself.

In the dedication to his mother that prefaces the novel, Lamb says he had the title, The Hour I First Believed, "from the very beginning." The phrase is also the very last line of the book. In retrospect, that makes sense, because this novel doesn't read like it was a process of discovery. It reads like someone working backward (and the long way round) from a foregone conclusion. --Cameron Martin

From 1996 to 2007, Cameron Martin was an award-winning feature writer, columnist, and book reviewer with the Greenwich Time and Stamford Advocate newspapers in Connecticut. He now freelances for Comcast SportsNet New England (covering the Red Sox) and for BugsandCranks.com, a web site dedicated to the lighter side of Major League Baseball. His short story "Once in Cassiopeia" -- about a woman who kills Osama bin Laden -- was published in the fall issue of Doublethink magazine.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060988432
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/4/2009
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Pages: 768
  • Sales rank: 100,107
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Wally Lamb

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.

Biography

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.

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.

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    1. Hometown:
      Willimantic, Connecticut
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 17, 1950
    2. Place of Birth:
      Norwich, Connecticut
    1. Education:
      B.A. in Education, University of Connecticut, 1972; M.A. in Education, 1977; M.F.A. in Writing, Vermont College, 1984

Read an Excerpt


The Hour I First Believed

A Novel


By Wally Lamb
HarperCollins
Copyright © 2008

Wally Lamb
All right reserved.



ISBN: 978-0-06-039349-6



Chapter One They were both working their final shift at Blackjack Pizza that night, although nobody but the two of them realized it was that. Give them this much: they were talented secret-keepers. Patient planners. They'd been planning it for a year, hiding their intentions in plain sight on paper, on videotape, over the Internet. In their junior year, one had written in the other's yearbook, "God, I can't wait till they die. I can taste the blood now." And the other had answered, "Killing enemies, blowing up stuff, killing cops! My wrath will be godlike!"

My wrath will be godlike: maybe that's a clue. Maybe their ability to dupe everyone was their justification. If we could be fooled, then we were all fools; they were, therefore, superior, chaos theirs to inflict. But I don't know. I'm just one more chaos theorist, as lost in the maze as everyone else.

It was Friday, April 16, 1999, four days before they opened fire. I'd stayed after school for a parent conference and a union meeting and, in between, had called Maureen to tell her I'd pick up takeout. Blackjack Pizza was between school and home.

It was early still. The Friday-night pizza rush hadn't begun. He was at the register, elbows against the counter, talking to a girl in a hairdresser's smock. Or not talking, pretty much. There was a cell phone on the counter, and he kept tapping it with his index finger to make it spin-kept looking at the revolving cell phone instead of at the girl. I remember wondering if I'd just walked in on a lover's spat. "I better get back," the girl said. "See you tomorrow." Her smock said "Great Clips," which meant she worked at the salon next door-the place where Maureen went.

"Prom date?" I asked him. The big event was the next night at the Design Center in Denver. From there, the kids would head back to school for the all-night post-prom party, which I'd been tagged to help chaperone.

"I wouldn't go to that bogus prom," he said. He called over his shoulder. "How's his half-mushroom-half-meatball coming?" His cohort opened the oven door and peered in. Gave a thumbs-up.

"So tell me," I said. "You guys been having any more of your famous Blackjack flour wars?"

He gave me a half-smile. "You remember that?"

"Sure. Best piece you wrote all term."

He'd been in my junior English class the year before. A grade-conscious concrete sequential, he was the kind of kid who was more comfortable memorizing vocab definitions and lines from Shakespeare than doing the creative stuff. Still, his paper about the Blackjack Pizza staff's flour fights, which he'd shaped as a spoof on war, was the liveliest thing he'd written all term. I remember scrawling across his paper, "You should think about taking creative writing next year." And he had. He was in Rhonda Baxter's class. Rhonda didn't like him, though-said she found him condescending. She hated the way he rolled his eyes at other kids' comments. Rhonda and I shared a free hour, and we often compared notes about the kids. I neither liked nor disliked him, particularly. He'd asked me to write him a letter of recommendation once. Can't remember what for. What I do recall is sitting there, trying to think up something to say.

He rang up my sale. I handed him a twenty. "So what's next year looking like?" I asked. "You heard back from any of the schools you applied to?"

"I'm joining the Marines," he said.

"Yeah? Well, I heard they're looking for a few good men." He nodded, not smiling, and handed me my change.

His buddy ambled over to the counter, pizza box in hand. He'd lost the boyish look I remembered from his freshman year. Now he was a lanky, beak-nosed adult, his hair tied back in a sorry-looking ponytail, his chin as prominent as Jay Leno's. "So what's your game plan for next year?" I asked him.

"University of Arizona."

"Sounds good," I said. I gave a nod to the Red Sox cap he was wearing. "You follow the Sox?"

"Somewhat. I just traded for Garciaparra in my fantasy league."

"Good move," I said. "I used to go to Sox games all the time when I was in college. Boston University. Fenway was five minutes away."

"Cool," he said.

"Maybe this is their year, huh?"

"Maybe." He didn't sound like he gave a shit either way.

He was in Rhonda's creative writing class, too. She'd come into the staff room sputtering about him one day. "Read this," she said. "Is this sick or what?" He'd written a two-page story about a mysterious avenger in a metal-studded black trench coat. As jocks and "college preps" leave a busy bar, he pulls pistols and explosives out of his duffel bag, wastes them, and walks away, smiling. "Do you think I should call his parents?" Rhonda had asked.

I'd shrugged. "A lot of the guys write this kind of crap. Too many video games, too much testosterone. I wouldn't worry about it. He probably just needs a girlfriend." She had worried, though, enough to make that call. She'd referred to the meeting, a week or so later, as "a waste of time."

The door banged open; five or six rowdy kids entered Blackjack. "Hey, I'll see you later," I said.

"Later," he said. And I remember thinking he'd make a good Marine. Clean-cut, conscientious, his ironed T-shirt tucked neatly into his wrinkle-free shorts. Give him a few years, I figured, and he'd probably be officer material.

At dinner that night, Maureen suggested we go out to a movie, but I begged off, citing end-of-the-week exhaustion. She cleaned up, I fed the dogs, and we adjourned to our separate TVs. By ten o'clock, I was parked on my recliner, watching Homicide with the closed-caption activated, my belly full of pizza. There was a Newsweek opened on my lap for commercial breaks, a Pete's Wicked ale resting against my crotch, and a Van Morrison CD reverberating inside my skull: Astral Weeks, a record that had been released in 1968, the year I turned seventeen.

(Continues...)




Excerpted from The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb Copyright © 2008 by Wally Lamb. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 604 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(187)

4 Star

(133)

3 Star

(114)

2 Star

(107)

1 Star

(63)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 604 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2008

    Wonderful

    This book is a testament to our past and future.<BR/>From Columbine, 9/11, Katrina, Iraq, the story relates the collateral damage done that no one acknowledges. An emotional but fulfilling read.<BR/>Don't miss it

    18 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 18, 2008

    Brilliant!

    There are just not enough words to describe how emotional this book was for me. I read through my tears, hoped for the best and had to set it down every so often to let it all soak in. The Moment I First Believed is now at the top of my favorites list.

    13 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2008

    Wow! Wally Lamb does not disappoint!

    Just as everyone else did, I excitedly awaited the arrival of this book. Wally Lamb had done it again...he's written a riveting story! The characters were very interesting. I loved how Caelum learned about his family history. It was all fascinating. My eyes were opened to the PTSD the Columbine survivors experience. Thank you, Mr. Lamb. Nothing else I read this year will be this well-written.

    12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2009

    Oh Well.

    I love Wally Lamb but I thought this book was a mess. I had a hard time keeping Lolly, Lydia and Lillian straight - I mean give me a fighting chance man! I didn't like either of the main characters and found the whole thing laborious. It gives me no pleasure to say this because I think Lamb is an exceptional writer and She's Come Undone has a place of honor in my permanent library. This book just missed all the marks for me. Sorry Wally!

    10 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 11, 2008

    Very Dissappointed

    I could not wait for Lamb's new book. I was very dissappointed--I had to trudge through it. The main characters are not likeable at all. I never really felt for either of them, they are both extremely selfish. I perked up when I started reading about the other family ( with the divorced mom and 2 sons) but that part was too brief. I think Lamb's overall idea for a plot was good but this story is too long and too convoluted. I just kept asking myself " how much more can happen to these people?"

    10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Not Worth the Time

    I do not recommend The Hour I First Believed. I found it a painful experience to finish the book. I did not develop any emotional ties to the characters and therefore could not identify with their experiences. The plot rambles on leaving the reader crying out for some type of ending. Normally a series of events in a book contain relevance because they connect to the other events in the book. Not so for this book. The inside cover compels the reader with its connection to the Columbine High School shootings, but that only serves to put one of the main characters into psychological turmoil and more plot. And the ending is disappointing and ambiguous. It's as if the author is trying too hard to make this a great book.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Don't let negative reviews deter you...

    I am a HUGE fan of Wally Lamb but I was a little skeptical about purchasing this book after reading several negative reviews from readers. I finally caved in and literally could not put this book down. The Hour I First Believed is amazing! The characters are real, raw, and captivating. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is not offended by true human emotion. Excellent!!!

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2009

    Masterpiece

    Wally Lamb has done it again. His book is a masterpiece. It held my interest throughout and kept me wanting more. Like the maze on the Quirk farm, the book takes you through many avenues and plotlines, but you will find yourself finally at the heart of the maze. I had tears in my eyes at the end of the book.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 7, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Stick to one plot

    Like others, I raced to the bookstore to buy this book. Very disappointed! Hurricane Katrina, Iraq veteran, Columbine, Mark Twain, civil war, even the Coconut Grove fire all in one book! Too much! The basic idea was ok and would have been great if the it could have stuck to one or even possibly two of these ideas. About 250 fewer pages would have made this a better read. I had to force myself to finish it. He is too good to publish something this bad. Connie Mae Fowler did the dead baby discovery much better.

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 5, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Awesome

    I could not put this book down. It was almost overwhelming. The events just keep rolling out in such a way that takes your breath away. It isn't that they are unbelievable. It is that they are reality. These circumstances could actually happen to real people and the fact that they all happened to one couple makes it sad, but poignant. <BR/><BR/>Lamb's style of writing is amazing. No other writer can capture me from the first page like he can. He pulls me in and wrings me out to dry by the end. Same thing happened in "She's Come Undone" and "I Know This Much is True". I only wish I did not have to wait so long in between novels, but if he wrote faster he would be on that "book-mill" circuit that has created all the other mindless, same story just change the names books that are out there. <BR/><BR/>Keep writing Wally - love it!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2010

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    Not my favorite

    I loved Wally Lamb's other 2 books.
    This book not so much. This book was 700 + pages & should have ended at page 400. Once the book focuses on the main characters family history, i totally zoned out. I skipped pages & pages. It made no sense to me at all.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    I loved this book--I was so dissapointed when I finished it

    The character development in this book was ingrossing--As a women who has read many novels about women and their issues, it was refreshing to read s good and emotionally provacative book about a man's life journey and struggles. The setting of the Columbine High School tragedy was so well researched that you could forgot it was a novel as the author sliped his characters seamlessly into the actual events. I was totally engrossed in the development of the main protagonist and the ending was stunning. The writting was supurb and I have already begun to read another novel by Lamb--

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 3, 2010

    Not as good as his other books....

    I had already read, "I Know this Much is True" and "She's Come Undone" by Wally Lamb before reading "The Hour I First Believed". I absolutely LOVE the first two. In fact, I have read them each three times over the course of about three years (and I am not one to re-read books no matter how much I enjoy them). I also don't keep books after I've read them, but I will NEVER part with these! They are like old friends I can turn to sitting right on my book shelf. I love the characters. I love the way Mr. Lamb grabs you from the very first sentence and holds on tight right to the end. Even after reading 900+ pages, I find myself wishing there were more! That being said, I then read "The Hour I First Believed". I was not impressed. I fell in love with a few of the characters, but there were too many characters and there was too much story to really get into the book. The beginning was great, as was the end, but the entire middle was quite boring. I was disappointed in this book after reading other two. I want to stress to everyone out there that has read this book, and because of it, will not read another Wally Lamb book, that you are missing out on his other incredible books. Please don't let your opinion of this book keep you from reading the others. They are truly fantastic. I constantly search for other writers similar to Wally Lamb until I can read another one of his masterpieces!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 24, 2010

    Too many digressions in this one

    The book's main premise, the Columbine tragedy and it's aftermath, was excellent. However, the main character's family history went on ad nauseum. I literally skipped hundreds of pages that included diaries and letters from the Civil War era. I don't feel that I missed anything of any importance by skipping this drivel.

    This is a book that could definitely benefit from an abridged version.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    Not What You Think!

    In his introduction, Wally Lamb says this was a very difficult novel to write. Yes, and difficult to read--since it is about the fallout for one family from the Columbine rampage. But it is a book you cannot put down, just like his "I Know This Much Is True."
    It is the story of one man's journey from insidious emotional pain and cynicism to a belief in the possibility of hope. Like Lamb's previous novels, this one takes its title from a song lyric. Some readers may be put off by the religious implications of the title; in fact, religious redemption is impossible for this narrator, considering the terrible events that have shaped his life. So it's not about religious conversion, but about something we good cynics can all find: faith in the reality of hope and the ability to enjoy the good parts of life.

    Why should we read it, if it's so painful? Because we are all like Caelum Quirk, and to survive our constant bombardment from the gleeful disseminators of bad news, we need to find out how one man arrives at peace in spite of the evil in the world.
    I wouldn't have missed reading "The Hour I First Believed" for anything.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2009

    Okay at best

    In the past Wally Lamb has written overall better novels. The Hour I First Believed was slow to start, the plot was predictable and the characters were cliche. While the concept of the novel was intriguing I would have cut out about 200 pages of dull repetitive writing.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2009

    Don't Bother

    I was ecstatic when I heard Mr. Lamb had written a new book having read his other books. The storyline was very disjointed and I felt no affinity with any of the characters. Add to that the writer's liberal sentiments and this is a book just not worth reading.

    Recommended: She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, The Time Traveler, Turtle Moon and Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman, Night by Elie Weisel

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Just a little too much

    Wally Lamb has a fluid writing style that's easy to follow. The characters are likeable but hard to grow attached to. The intertwining plot lines are far from realistic, but unpredictable and captivating nonetheless. It's packed full of references to real events/movies/songs etc. to help place a timeline. That may work to pull some readers in, but I thought it was a little cheesy and overdone. The story is drawn out too long, and ironically, the ending seemed to too quickly wrap up lose ends. Overall, it was okay, but not a book you'd ever want to read twice.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    My first Lamb experience

    This was my first read by Wally Lamb. I thought it was a very emotionally gripping book. I didn't want to put it down or for it to end.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Well worth the read

    I was anxious to read Wally Lamb's new book and was thoroughly engrossed right from the beginning. Lamb's description of the Columbine tragedy was so poignantly depicted, that I felt a deep and emotional connection to the event and its victims.

    There are many twists and turns and surprises that are totally unpredictable and serve to make the book hard to put down. Its length is a bit daunting but Lamb expertly pulls you in and, before you know it, you're halfway through the book and looking forward to the second half.

    Readers beware...this is not a "feel good" book as it explores painful and difficult issues but well, well worth the read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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