BN.com Gift Guide

She's Come Undone

( 694 )

Overview

In this extraordinary coming-of-age odyssey, Wally Lamb invites us to hitch a wild ride on a journey of love, pain, and renewal with the most heartbreakingly comical heroine to come along in years. Meet Dolores Price. She's 13, wise-mouthed but wounded, having bid her childhood goodbye. Stranded in front of her bedroom TV, she spends the next few years nourishing herself with the Mallomars, potato chips, and Pepsi that her anxious mother supplies. When she finally orbits into young womanhood at 257 pounds, ...
See more details below
Paperback (Mass Market Paperback)
$7.99
BN.com price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (322) from $1.99   
  • New (16) from $2.29   
  • Used (306) from $1.99   
She's Come Undone

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$7.99
BN.com price

Overview

In this extraordinary coming-of-age odyssey, Wally Lamb invites us to hitch a wild ride on a journey of love, pain, and renewal with the most heartbreakingly comical heroine to come along in years. Meet Dolores Price. She's 13, wise-mouthed but wounded, having bid her childhood goodbye. Stranded in front of her bedroom TV, she spends the next few years nourishing herself with the Mallomars, potato chips, and Pepsi that her anxious mother supplies. When she finally orbits into young womanhood at 257 pounds, Dolores is no stronger and life is no kinder. But this time she's determined to rise to the occasion and give herself one more chance before she really goes under.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Delores Price, enduring a life filled with unlucky accidents, random acts of abuse, and a rape at the age of 13, grows into an obese woman with a gutsy manner. Lamb's skillful hand makes this first novel a memorable audiobook. Read by Kathy Najimy.
BUST Magazine
I was impressed and incredulous that this exquisitely nuanced ode to the living hell that is one woman's puberty was written by a man [gasp]. His stunningly drawn portrait of the scarred, misterable and oft-times gastronomically challenged Dolores seduces the reader into acknowledging some of the very reasons we don't always enjoy being a girl.
Hilma Wolitzer
She's Come Undone, an ambitious, often stirring and hilarious book. . . . Despite its strong story line, the book's suspense depends more on emotions than events, and its pleasures lie primarily in its lively narrative style and biting humor. --New York Times
Library Journal
An award-winning creative writing teacher has created a compelling first novel whose heroine reflects on her troubled journey from childhood to middle age. Bruised by her parents' divorce, her mother's breakdown, and brutal betrayal by a neighbor, Dolores Price tries to retreat from life. Overwhelming anger and defiance frequently blind her to the needs of others, yet even in despair she battles for love and acceptance, supported by some delightfully unconventional friends. There are no simple solutions, but from the shattered remains of her dysfunctional family, she binds together a new beginning. Her struggles to understand pain and achieve forgiveness resonate with a sense of life's complexities. Dolores is not always likable, but her story combines sorrow and wonder in a remarkable way. -- Jan Blodgett, St. Mary's City Records Center & Archives, Leonardtown, Maryland
Library Journal
An award-winning creative writing teacher has created a compelling first novel whose heroine reflects on her troubled journey from childhood to middle age. Bruised by her parents' divorce, her mother's breakdown, and brutal betrayal by a neighbor, Dolores Price tries to retreat from life. Overwhelming anger and defiance frequently blind her to the needs of others, yet even in despair she battles for love and acceptance, supported by some delightfully unconventional friends. There are no simple solutions, but from the shattered remains of her dysfunctional family, she binds together a new beginning. Her struggles to understand pain and achieve forgiveness resonate with a sense of life's complexities. Dolores is not always likable, but her story combines sorrow and wonder in a remarkable way. -- Jan Blodgett, St. Mary's City Records Center & Archives, Leonardtown, Maryland
Kirkus Reviews
A tremendously likable first novel about the catastrophe-marked childhood, youth, and mangled adulthood of a tough-fibered woman who almost beaches herself in guilt and grief. Terrible things are about to happen to Dolores Price, only child of brittle, vulnerable Bernice and weak, randomly abusive Tony. Tony leaves Bernice sometime after their son is stillborn, and after a week playing with little Dolores in a new backyard pool, when the child expects a lifetime of floating with Daddy. Then Bernice completely flips out and goes to a mental hospital; Dolores is taken to live with Grandma in Rhode Island on Pierce Street (which "smelled of car exhaust and frying food. Glass shattered, people screamed, kids threw rocks."). Later, Ma returns and works collecting tolls on the Newport Bridge, while friendless Dolores attends a corrosive parochial school.

But all welcome Grandma's new tenant, dazzling Jack, a radio DJ who, when Dolores is 13, rapes her in a dog pound. The person Dolores runs to is heart-of-gold Roberta, empress of the Peacock Tattoo Emporium across the street. In spite of the strangled but loyal love of Ma and Grandma, the palship of Roberta, and the kindness of a gentle gay guidance counselor, Dolores is about to go under. She becomes a mountain of fat, and soon is convinced that she's responsible for the death of Jack's baby—but also of Bernice, who's killed by a car. At a Pennsylvania college, Dolores knows that her destiny is to 'kill what people love.' Lamb has a broad satiric touch with some satisfying fat targets (the warfare of Pierce Street, etc.). And in spite of hard, hard times and crazy coincidences, Dolores' career is a pleasure to follow, as she barrelsthrough—with a killer mouth and the guts of a sea lion. A warmblooded, enveloping tale of survival, done up loose and cheering.

From the Publisher
Glamour A heroine to cheer for....This supremely touching journey to adulthood may remind you of The World According to Garp and other sagas of emotional liberation.

People There are at least two surprises in store for readers of Lamb's memorable debut novel. One is the author's sex. This male writes so convincingly in the voice of a female, tracing her life from 4 to 40, that you have to keep looking back at the jacket picture just to make sure. The second surprise is how such a string of trials and tribulations can add up to such a touchingly funny book...

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671021009
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication date: 6/28/1998
  • Series: Oprah's Book Club Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 65,422
  • Product dimensions: 6.70 (w) x 4.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Wally Lamb

Wally Lamb's fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Pushcart Prize XV: Best of the Small Presses; The Best of the Small Presses; The Best of the Missouri Review; Streetsongs 1: New Voices in Fiction; Northeast and The New York Times Magazine. He is the recipient of an NEA grant for fiction, and is a Missouri Review William Peden fiction prize winner. A nationally honored teacher of writing, and a graduate of the Vermont College MFA's Writing Program, Lamb lives in Connecticut with his wife and their three children. His first novel, She’s Come Undone, was an Oprah Book Club Selection, and has since sold millions of copies. He is also the author of the bestsellers I Know This Much Is True, The Hour I First Believed, and We Are Water.

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.

Read More Show Less
    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

I was on the brown plaid sofa, watching TV and scotch-taping my bangs to my forehead because Jeanette said that kept them from drying frizzy. Across the room on the Barcalounger, my mother was having her nervous breakdown.

Ma sat hunched over one of our fold-out TV trays, working constantly on a religious jigsaw puzzle without making any progress. She wore her knee socks and her quilted pink bathrobe, despite the early summer heat. She ate nothing but cubes of Kraft caramels. For two weeks, I had been reaching over and turning up the volume, trying as best I could to ignore the private curse words she'd begun chuckling to herself, trying not to see the litter of caramel cellophane that was accumulating around her chair in a kind of half circle.

It wasn't that Ma hadn't put up a fight. In Daddy's absence, she'd repainted the downstairs hallway and exercised in front of the TV with Jack LaLanne and cried and kicked the lawn mower until it eventually started. Her efforts at going it alone led her back to Sunday Mass and through a succession of brief jobs: convalescent-home cook, bank teller, notions-department clerk at Mr. Big's discount store. When winter cold burst one of our pipes, Ma called and called until she located the random yellow-pages plumber who got out of bed to come fix it.

But we'd done nothing about maintaining the pool the previous fall. Leaves had fluttered down onto the surface then sunk and rotted; by springtime, the pool water was brown soup.

One morning in May, Ma went downstairs and found Petey dead at the bottom of his cage. "Why me? Why always me?" she was still sobbing when I got home from school. She hadn't gone to work that day and didn't go the next day either. At the end of the week Mr. Big's called to say they were letting her go. By then she'd already begun living in her robe.

It was Ma's hair that finally got to me. At school I sucked breath mints and carried a small bottle of Tussy deodorant in my purse for whenever I could get my hands on the lavatory pass. Ma's unwashed hair, matted and crazy, alarmed me enough to suspend the cold war against my father and contact directory assistance in Tenafly, New Jersey.

It had been almost a year since my father's move to Tenafly where he'd opened a flower shop with his girlfriend, Donna.

"Good afternoon, Garden of Eden," Donna said. I had spoken to her only once before, phoning the day my parents' divorce became final to call her a whore. The two prevailing mysteries in my life were: what Donna looked like and why, exactly, my father had traded us for her.

"May I speak to Tony," I said icily. "This is his daughter, Miss Dolores Price."

When my father got on, I cut through his nervous chitchat. "It's Ma," I said. "She's acting funny."

He coughed, paused, coughed again. "Funny how?" he asked.

"You know. Funny peculiar."

Neither Donna nor I wished to live under the same roof, and neither the Nords nor my father would entertain my proposal that Jeanette and I live at our house for the summer and Mrs. Nord drive over with our meals and clean laundry. It was decided I would move to my grandmother's house on Pierce Street in Easterly, Rhode Island, until Ma got right again.

On the one-hour drive to Grandma Holland's, I clutched my notebook filled with addresses of girls from whom I'd forced promises to write me regularly. Daddy kept sneaking nervous peeks at me and at the rearview mirror. Behind us, the U-Haul trailer wobbled and swayed frost side to side. In silence I waited impatiently for the tragic highway accident that would paralyze me but wrench both my parents back to their senses. I pictured the three of us back home on Bobolink Drive, Daddy pushing my wheelchair solemnly up the front walk, eternally grateful for my forgiveness. At the doorway, Ma would smile sadly, her hair as clean and lustrous as a Breck-shampoo girl's.

Daddy didn't say much to Grandma. He deposited my bike and suitcases and cartons in the front foyer, kissed me on the forehead, and left.

Grandma and I were cautiously polite to each other. "Make yourself at home, Dolores," she said hesitantly as she opened the door to what had once been my mother's bedroom. The room smelled dry and dusty. The windows were stuck closed and there were little rows of insect carcasses along the sill. When I sat down on the hard mattress, it crackled under me. I tried to picture my mother in this room as a twelve-year-old girl like me, but all I could see was Anne Frank on the cover of her paperback diary.

With each trip up or down the front staircase, I watched the portrait of Eddie, my dead uncle. His blond hair was pushed up into a spiky crew cut. His eyes peeked out from beneath two bushy brows and followed my steps with eerie cheerfulness. His smile was almost a smirk, as if he might reach out from the frame and jab me in the ribs as I passed.

For supper we ate meat loaf and creamed spinach, the two of us sitting in a silence broken only by the occasional clink of fork against plate or Grandma's clearing her throat. When she got up to make herself some tea, she addressed the stove. "She's not cuckoo, you know," she said. "He's the one with the mortal sin on his soul, not Bernice."

That evening I thumbtacked my Dr. Kildare collage to the wall and unpacked my clothes. Grandma had placed little sachet pillows in the dresser drawers. As I yanked each drawer open, the smell of old ladies from church -- with their powdered wrinkly necks and quivery singing voices -- drifted up toward me. In the bottom bureau drawer I discovered a little red ink message hidden in a back corner, written right into the wood. "I love Bernice Holland," it said. "Sincerely, Alan Ladd." Twice during the night I put the light on and got out of bed to make sure it was still there.

Grandma turned her TV to thunderous volume and told me I mumbled. She was still an "Edge of Night" fan. Sometimes I'd grab a Coke from the refrigerator and slump down on the couch with her, slurping intentionally from the bottle.

"I hope you don't sit like that in school," she said. "It's unladylike."

I thumbed through the TV Guide and reminded her I was on summer vacation.

"When I was your age at the Bishop School, I received a medal for deportment on Class Day. A girl named Lucinda Cote thought she was going to get it -- told me as much. She was a big piece of cheese, very stuck on herself. But no, they gave it to me. And here is my very own granddaughter who can't even sit correctly on a divan."

"What's a divan?" I said, swigging my Coke.

"A sofa!" she said, exasperated.

She watched in silent horror as I stuck my thumb over the Coke bottle opening and shook, then let the foam erupt into my mouth. "Can I turn the TV down?" I asked. "I'm not deaf, you know."

Evenings after the dishes, Grandma hobbled around the house with her frayed prayer book which was held together with rubber bands. Then she'd settle in front of the television to watch her westerns -- "Bonanza," "Rawhide" -- while I sat out at the kitchen signing corny get-well cards to Ma and pages of complaints to Jeanette.

In our first week together, Grandma told me it was a sin the way I wasted hot water, toilet paper, my spare time. She said she'd never heard of a girl who had reached my age without learning to crochet. I retaliated by shocking her as best I could. At breakfast, I drowned my scrambled eggs in plugs of ketchup. Evenings, I danced wildly by myself to my 45s while she watched from the doorway. It was mostly for Grandma's benefit that I mouthed the declarations of the girl singers: My love is like a heat wave...It's my party and I'll cry if I want to! One night Grandma wondered aloud why I didn't ever listen to singers who could carry a tune.

"Like who, for instance?" I scoffed.

"Well, like Perry Como."

"That old dinosaur?" I snorted.

"Well, how about the Lennon Sisters then? They can't be much older than you are."

I lied and told her one of her precious Lennon sisters -- Diane, the oldest, her favorite -- was having an illegitimate baby.

"Pfft," she said, flicking away the possibility with the flap of her wrist. But her lip quivered and she left my room making the sign of the cross.

Pierce Street smelled of car exhaust and frying food. Glass shattered, people screamed, kids threw rocks. "Jeepers Christmas," Grandma would mumble as cars squealed by at emergency speeds. She told me she had warned her husband, my grandfather, that they should follow the doctors and lawyers and schoolteachers who had moved out of the neighborhood after the war. But Grandpa had put it off and put it off and then, in 1948, had died, leaving her with teenage children and a two-family home with a leaky roof. "This house has been my cross to bear," she was fond of saying. She had come to see her staying on amongst the "riffraff" as the will of God. He had placed her here as a model of clean Catholic living. She was not obliged to speak to any of her neighbors, only to offer them her good example.

At dusk each evening, Mrs. Tingley, Grandma's third-floor tenant, clip-clopped down the side steps with her bug-eyed Chihuahua, Cutie Pie. "Come on, Cutie Pie, go poopy," Mrs. Tingley always said, while the dog circled nervously on his tether. In all the years Mr. and Mrs. Tingley had rented from my grandmother, Grandma had assumed hewas the drinker, not her. But after Mr. Tingley's death, the package-store man had kept pulling up to the curb as usual. My bedroom ceiling was Mrs. Tingley's bedroom floor. The only sound from above was the click of dog toenails, and I pictured Mrs. Tingley up there lying in bed, sipping in silence.

Across from Grandma's was a tin-roofed store divided in two. One half was a barbershop. The barber, a thin, jowly man, sat sadly at the window most of the day, reading his own magazines and waiting for customers. The other half was the Peacock Tattoo Emporium. It was run by a skinny, older woman with dyed black hair and red toreador pants. On my second afternoon at Grandma's, she waved me over from where I was sitting on the front porch, waiting for the mailman. She introduced herself as Roberta and asked me to run to the store for a pack of Newports. When I returned, she waved away the change and proceeded to dazzle me with her exotic life story. She had once been married to a sword swallower who was now in jail where he belonged. Her second husband, the Canuck, God love him, was dead. Roberta had traveled with the Canuck to both Alaska and Hawaii and liked Alaska better. She'd dreamed President Kennedy's assassination the week before it happened. She had been a vegetarian since the day in 1959 when she opened up a can of beef stew and found a baby rat.

When Grandma came outside to sweep the porch, she spotted me through Roberta's plate-glass window and motioned me home. Back inside, she hit me on the head with a rolled-up newspaper. "Don't you say another word to that piece of garbage," she said, her face flushed in anger. "Don't you listen to another word of her malarkey."

"I have a perfect right to make my own friends!" I shouted back.

"Not with chippies like that one you don't!"

The center of activity on Pierce Street was Connie's Superette, a little market housed on the bottom floor of a large, asbestos-shingled apartment building. Connie, a fat woman with Lucille Ball red hair, sat behind the counter on a webbed porch chair. She kept a whirring electric fan trained on herself and was careful not to risk breaking her two-inch fingernails as she grudgingly rang up people's stuff. Connie's nephew, Big Boy, was the butcher. He whistled through his teeth and wore madras shirts and an apron smeared with blood. He looked like Doug McClure on "The Virginian."

Grandma traded at Connie's because she had never learned to drive a car, but she held a grudge against Big Boy, who had said to her one day in front of a whole storeful of customers, "What'll it be, tootsie?" When I moved in, she was only too happy to make me her errand girl. Daily, she folded money into my palm and sent me down the street for Tums or cornstarch or prune juice. As I headed out the door, she never failed to remind me to steer clear of both Big Boy and the dirty-magazine aisle.

The Pysyks lived in the apartment above the superette. Their twin daughters, Rosalie and Stacia, were the only two girls my age on Pierce Street. They hung out on the upstairs porch, where they danced and giggled and flicked their middle fingers back to neighborhood boys who shouted vulgar remarks up to them. They had a portable record player with a plastic polka-dot case and one scratchy record, "Big Girls Don't Cry," which they played nonstop at top volume. Both girls wore short shorts and frilly midriff blouses and were Q-Tip skinny, although they seemed forever to be eating and drinking something. Their whole day was like a party -- a private one. I was both jealous of the twins and petrified of them. Grandma had once thrown a pitcher of water at the girls and called them "dirty DP's" when she had caught them ringing her bell and hiding behind her catalpa tree. The Pysyk sisters took an immediate dislike to me, and my daily treks to the store became nightmares.

"Hey kid!" Rosalie shouted down to me on my very first trip to Connie's. Her sister hung over the railing, smirking and eating from a bag of potato chips. "You stuck-up or something? Got a broom up your ass?" Behind her, the Four Seasons wailed in their scratchy falsettos.

"Oh, hi," I called up, smiling stiffly. "Gee, that's a good record you're playing. I'm really enjoying it." Already I could see the three of us walking home from school together, me lending them my 45s.

"'That's a good record you're playing. I'm really enjoying it,'" Rosalie mimicked back. Both girls brayed like donkeys.

"What's your name?" Stacia shouted down.

"Dolores." It came out shaky, like a request.

"Oh," she said. "I thought it was Fucky Face."

Her sister squealed in horrified delight, pulling off a candy wrapper with her teeth and spitting it over the rail at me.

Each day it happened again. "Hi, Pukehead," one would yell as I approached the store. "Say hello to all them cooties for us," the other would call as I left minutes later with Grandma's groceries. My heart raced. My grandmother's change went sweaty in my fist. I smiled Anne Frank's brave smile and checked my urge to run. Back in the house, I studied my face in the medicine-cabinet mirror for clues as to why they hated me. I accepted each of their hundred imagined apologies. One night I woke up shaky from a dream in which the twins had lured me up to their porch with offers of friendship and then attempted to hurl me headfirst over the railing.

"What are DP's, anyways?" I asked Grandma one night. She was at the kitchen table, mumbling her rosary while I dried the dishes.

"Displaced persons. People we took in from Europe after the war. You'd think they'd be grateful, wouldn't you?"

I understood why they weren't. A displaced person myself, I was not so much grateful to Grandma for her charity as disgusted by her liver spots and quiet belches, the way she could reach into her mouth and, with a gurgle, remove her top teeth. Dolores Price, DP: we even had the same initials. Still, the Pysyks gave no sign of wanting to meet me on common ground.

Copyright © 1992 by Wally Lamb

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Read More Show Less

Introduction

Reading Group Discussion Points

  1. How does Dolores' life parallel her mother's and how does she ultimately triumph and move beyond her tie to her mother's failures?
  2. Discuss the significance of water in the novel - as a symbol of both Dolores' breaking points and eventual recovery.
  3. How is religion, particulary Catholicism, treated in the novel? Is it a legitimate source of strength or simply another crutch to avoid dealing with the real problems in Dolores' family?
  4. Death, in many forms, frequently occurs in the novel. What is the impact of death on Dolores and is she ever able to move beyond the initial tragedy of her baby brother's death?
  5. Throughout her life, no matter where she is, Dolores always feels like on outsider. What perspective of reality dictates her actions - is Dolores misguided or is she a victim of her circumstances?
  6. How is Dolores' sexuality used to reflect her voyage in society Is her path in life guided by her dysfunctional relationships with men, beginning with her father, or are the men in her life simply potholes in her quest to search for her identity?
  7. Dolores' earliest memory revolves around the day her family received their first television set. Discuss the prevalence of popular culture in the novel, both in the shaping of Dolores' identity and the world she lives in.
  8. Whether talented or not, many characters in the novel express themselves through some form of art. Does "art imitate life" or does "life imitate art," and how is art used to give life to the characters and their emotions?
  9. Dolores frequently encounters people in her life who mirrorfamily members who have disappointed her over the years. What is the role of the family and how does Dolores ultimately compensate for her losses through her relationships with caring outsiders?
  10. Dolores is both adored and loathed for her unconventional appearance. How is body image treated in the novel and how does it affect Dolores' growth and placement in society. Is her problem with social assimilation unique to her experience or a symptom of our society's definition of beauty?
  11. Discuss the significance of Dolores' mother's flying leg painting. Her mother is killed before she really gets a chance to fly — what facilitates Dolores' ability to finally accept her mother's failures and create her own wings to fly towards a better future?
  12. Much of the attention of She's Come Undone has focused on a male writer's ability (or inability) to write authentically in the voice of a female character. What other male fiction writers of the present and/or the past have experimented with women's "voices'? What female writers have written in the voice of males? Is it appropriate for fiction writers to give themselves such "gender-bending" assignments? Is it politically correct? Is it a more socially acceptable task for writers of one gender than for the other?
  13. Wally Lamb has described "good literature" as writing that explores the imperfections of the world and "kicks readers in their pants, shakes them out of their complacency about a world that needs fixing." Do you agree or disagree with this definition? How does it apply to She's Come Undone?

Wally Lamb's fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Pushcart Prize XV: Best of the Small Presses; The Best of the Small Presses; The Best of the Missouri Review; Streetsongs 1: New Voices in Fiction; Northeast and The New York Times Magazine. He is the recipient of an NEA grant for fiction, and is a Missouri Review William Peden fiction prize winner. A nationally honored teacher of writing, and a graduate of the Vermont College MFA's Writing Program, Lamb lives in Connecticut with his wife and their three children. He is also the author of I Know This Much Is True.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Discussion Points
  1. How does Dolores' life parallel her mother's and how does she ultimately triumph and move beyond her tie to her mother's failures?
  2. Discuss the significance of water in the novel - as a symbol of both Dolores' breaking points and eventual recovery.
  3. How is religion, particulary Catholicism, treated in the novel? Is it a legitimate source of strength or simply another crutch to avoid dealing with the real problems in Dolores' family?
  4. Death, in many forms, frequently occurs in the novel. What is the impact of death on Dolores and is she ever able to move beyond the initial tragedy of her baby brother's death?
  5. Throughout her life, no matter where she is, Dolores always feels like on outsider. What perspective of reality dictates her actions - is Dolores misguided or is she a victim of her circumstances?
  6. How is Dolores' sexuality used to reflect her voyage in society Is her path in life guided by her dysfunctional relationships with men, beginning with her father, or are the men in her life simply potholes in her quest to search for her identity?
  7. Dolores' earliest memory revolves around the day her family received their first television set. Discuss the prevalence of popular culture in the novel, both in the shaping of Dolores' identity and the world she lives in.
  8. Whether talented or not, many characters in the novel express themselves through some form of art. Does "art imitate life" or does "life imitate art," and how is art used to give life to the characters and their emotions?
  9. Dolores frequently encounters people in her life who mirror family members who have disappointed her over the years. What is the role of the family and how does Dolores ultimately compensate for her losses through her relationships with caring outsiders?
  10. Dolores is both adored and loathed for her unconventional appearance. How is body image treated in the novel and how does it affect Dolores' growth and placement in society. Is her problem with social assimilation unique to her experience or a symptom of our society's definition of beauty?
  11. Discuss the significance of Dolores' mother's flying leg painting. Her mother is killed before she really gets a chance to fly -- what facilitates Dolores' ability to finally accept her mother's failures and create her own wings to fly towards a better future?
  12. Much of the attention of She's Come Undone has focused on a male writer's ability (or inability) to write authentically in the voice of a female character. What other male fiction writers of the present and/or the past have experimented with women's "voices'? What female writers have written in the voice of males? Is it appropriate for fiction writers to give themselves such "gender-bending" assignments? Is it politically correct? Is it a more socially acceptable task for writers of one gender than for the other?
  13. Wally Lamb has described "good literature" as writing that explores the imperfections of the world and "kicks readers in their pants, shakes them out of their complacency about a world that needs fixing." Do you agree or disagree with this definition? How does it apply to She's Come Undone?
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 694 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(424)

4 Star

(165)

3 Star

(57)

2 Star

(25)

1 Star

(23)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 694 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Good read with a lasting effect.

    My mom was cleaning out the closets and came across "She's Come Undone," which I had read several year ago. It is one of my all-time favorite books, one that I still bring up when discussing novels. I thought it was an amazing story, and I have always been amazed that it was written in first person by a man. The character of Dolores is so real and believable. I took the book from my mom and read it over again, and I still love the book, although since my first reading, I have had children and been through the death of a parent, just to name a couple of things, just many more life experiences. I do have to say that re-reading the book as a mother made it a whole different experience. Definitely came across much sadder to me, and I viewed the characters of Dolores, her mother, and her grandmother in a new light. I still laughed out loud more than a few times, but definitely cried more this time, too. It is still a fantastic book and one I will always keep in my collection. Wally Lamb is a gifted writer to have written the type of book that stays with you long after you put it down. I would not recommend a book that didn't have that effect on me.

    19 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 27, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Soul-shaking story

    I love this book. I reread it every few years. It reaches for you soul and challenges the standards and morals we set for ourselves through the heartbreaking tale of Dolores Price.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Worst book I've ever read

    This is quite possibly the worst book I have ever read. It's very depressing and frustrating, and the entire book made me angry. I was so mad at Lamb by the end of this book I wanted to scream. Now, I read a lot of books full of graphic violence and horrific acts against the characters that range anywhere from physical to mental, but the psychological tortures Lamb puts her through in this story is truly unbearable to me. He had too many things happen to her throughout the course of the novel. If he had just picked one or two, then it probably wouldn't have been so bad, but he just kept putting her through more and more. To me it read more like a man that possibly hates womankind and was taking his own anger out on his female character. If I didn't have to read it for a class I was taking in school, I would have thrown it accross my room and never finished it. And despite the fact that I truly hate this book, I believe Lamb to be truly talented, because only a gifted writer could inspire that kind of emotional reaction. I am planning on reading some of his other books because I don't think it's fair to condemn an author's entire work based on one story.

    8 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted March 7, 2000

    A very depressing book

    I know I'm in the minority here, but I didn't like the main character. The more I read, the less I cared for her or her problems. She was self-absorbed and mean-spirited. The scenes were way too graphic, especially the rape and lesbian scenes. I found the language and tone of the book very disturbing.

    8 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 8, 2010

    I love this book!

    Someone gave me this book many years ago and I just put in on the shelf. I finally got around to reading it and I'm really glad I did. It was an interesting book that I couldn't put down by the second chapter. The character development was awesome and I like how it followed Delores from her childhood through adulthood. You really feel like you get to know her very intimately and you come to love her. I think any woman can relate to her story in one way or another and it touches you on a deep level. This is a 5 star book and it's hard to believe it was written by a man.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 28, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    ENJOYED!

    This book was written with such insight into a woman's mind, it is hard to believe this author is a man. Dolores Price is someone who feels life has dealt her a bad hand and then proceeds living with a self-destructive outlook. Read with an open mind! Enjoyed!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted April 13, 2009

    Someone came undone.

    I found this book very depressing and felt a little indignant that a man would try and write as how a woman would feel. I would not recommend this book. Although I really enjoyed his other books!

    6 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted November 14, 2011

    No

    This is the most depressing, repulsive book i have ever read

    4 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted September 29, 2011

    refreshing honesty

    Yes, this book was overwhelmingly depressing. I couldn't enjoy a saturday night without thinking about the hardships of Dolores Price. The author's viewpoint of the thoughts of a girl was very insightful and the effort was truly successful. Yet, everyone whines about how bad their lives are, think about the characters that repeatedly come in and out of Dolores' life.If you cast your problems into the problems of the world, you would be quick to reel them back in. Who cares if the book is depressing? It is truth, it is realistic, is is real. This book made me come undone, but it is a book that has changed me, and made me realize that other's lives are something to complain about, not my own. The development of the characterization was something I could not complain about, either.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 29, 2011

    typing!

    The e-book version has a ton of typos. The story is riveting, but whoever typed it needs to go back to high school keyboarding class!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    I cannot put this book down.

    I started this book about 2 days ago and on the 9th page, unable to put this book down. After the 2nd chapter the story picks up a lot more, so if you find youself bored in the beginning, just wait. There's so much drama, the characters are unique and of their own. You can sympathize with the main character Dolores, and what she goes through. Something's are totally shocking, that I gasped so loud on the train everyone thought their was a rat or something horrible happening. I COMPLETELY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK!. Wally Lamb is such a great writer. I also recommend-
    "I Know This Much Is True".

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 15, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A Must-Read That You Won't Soon Forget

    This moving story teaches us all that is never too late to become the person you want to be.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 17, 2011

    A repeat treat!

    I first read this book back in 1998 when it first appeared on the Oprah Book Club. I was blown away. The insight Lamb has on a female character's life is incredible. The challenges and joys Dolores experiences in her life could literally be felt in each page turned. Lamb delves into the insecurities of all of us and paints a perfect picture of a character that we can all relate too. Interesting because Dolores says she always felt like an outsider her whole life. Whether it's food or clinging to insecure love, Dolores avoids coming to terms with she truly is by hiding behind these things.

    This will be the third time I've read this book. It's one of those that despite owning the hard copy I have bought again for my new Nook. It's a part of my library I want to always have available. I look forward to spending the next few weeks inside the pages of this book again.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 19, 2009

    She's Come Undone

    This book deals with very mature subject matter.Rape,suicide,divorce,are just a few of issues a young girl has to deal with.I found it very depressing and couldn't wait for the book to be finished.Call me old fashioned but I suggest that no one under 18 years old read this.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted December 11, 1999

    GREAT! GREAT! GREAT!

    This has to be the best book I have ever read and I have read MANY. You actually find yourself immersed in the character of Deloris and cry with her, laugh with her, and root for her. A MUST READ!!!!!!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    THE GREATEST WORK OF FICTION EVER

    Clearly whoever wrote the last review is poorly educated and has low taste regarding literature. I found this work to be of the highest philosophical and literary construction, surpassing all others in its brevity, sincerity, and copious effervescence. Every sentence was an explosion of poetry and lyrical nuance that left me breathless. By the time I reached the end I felt that I knew at last what it was to be the main character.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted January 15, 2000

    She Rocks!!!

    Underneath those layers of fat lies strength, courage and a willingness to love. Dolores Price proves us, amongst the madness of the crowd, how important it is to give yourself a fair second chance.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted June 3, 2014

    Worthwhile read

    Unlike many readers who are saying that the main character is disgustingly fat rude completely unrelatable and nasty and they can't believe this is what a guy thinks about women, i think this is morely for the people who had a horrible childhood for. Maybe a bad life, I had none of the things i stated, besides hating myself in my early teen years and i find the main character Dolores relatable in certain ways. Plus i so feel some compassion for her since she lost a lot of important things in her life which made her who she was throughout this book and I think she ended up pretty good close to the end for how she was during most of the book and she dealed with a lot of things badly but she was only doing what she thought was rigt to do or she didnt think at all.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted May 28, 2014

    The main character was impossible to like or have any compassion

    The main character was impossible to like or have any compassion for. She was disgustingly fat, rude and nasty. Can't believe a man wrote this. Is this what he thinks women are like?

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted December 27, 2013

    My Fave!!

    I read this years ago while it was on the Oprah's Book Club. First off let me say that I personally have gone through many things Dolores had and it touched me on a very deep, personal level. Secondly I was amazed a man wrote this book. A very talented writer I might add. Wally Lamb's writing is different than any other Author I've read. His thoughtfulness, wit, sarcasm and insight come across in every book that I've read of his. His writing style is really quite amazing. Just started reading " We are Water".... beautiful. About a year ago I picked up a pretty blue leather journal.. with Whales imprinted on the front and back. First thing I thought of was Dolores... This book has been Forever imprinted in my heart :-)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 694 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)