The Hour I First Believed
  • The Hour I First Believed
  • The Hour I First Believed

The Hour I First Believed

3.4 612
by Wally Lamb, George Guidall
     
 

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When high school teacher Caelum Quirk and his wife, Maureen, 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 when Caelum and Maureen flee to an illusion of safety on the

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Overview

When high school teacher Caelum Quirk and his wife, Maureen, 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 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.

While Maureen fights to regain her sanity, Caelum discovers five generations' worth of diaries, letters, and newspaper clippings in his family's house. As unimaginable secrets emerge, Caelum grapples with the past and struggles to fashion a future from the ashes of tragedy. His quest for meaning is at once mythic and contemporary, personal and quintessentially American.

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.)

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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.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061703034
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
11/11/2008
Edition description:
Unabridged, 20 CDs, 24 hours
Pages:
20
Sales rank:
1,453,030
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 5.80(h) x 2.10(d)

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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What People are saying about this

Corrie Pikul
“Lamb, a maestro of orchestrating emotion . . . knows how to make his fans’ hearts sing.”
Gail Pennington
“Too compelling to put down . . . a richly textured story . . . moving, funny, and completely unpredictable.”
Cherie Parker
“Lamb has crafted another affecting, engrossing tome about complicated, interesting characters.”
Craig Wilson
“A page-turner. . . . Lamb remains a storyteller at the top of his game.”

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