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We Are Water

We Are Water

3.9 197
by Wally Lamb

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After twenty-seven years of marriage and three children, Annie Oh—wife, mother, and outsider artist—has fallen in love with Viveca, the Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her professional success. Annie and Viveca plan to wed in the Oh family's hometown of Three Rivers, Connecticut, where gay marriage has recently been legalized. But the


After twenty-seven years of marriage and three children, Annie Oh—wife, mother, and outsider artist—has fallen in love with Viveca, the Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her professional success. Annie and Viveca plan to wed in the Oh family's hometown of Three Rivers, Connecticut, where gay marriage has recently been legalized. But the impending wedding provokes some very mixed reactions and opens a Pandora's box of toxic secrets—dark and painful truths that have festered below the surface of the Ohs' lives.

We Are Water is an intricate and layered portrait of marriage, family, and the inexorable need for understanding and connection. Set in New England and New York during the first years of the Obama presidency, it is also a portrait of modern America, exploring issues of class, changing social mores, the legacy of racial violence, and the nature of creativity and art.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Audio
★ 02/15/2014
In Lamb's (Wishin' and Hopin') latest, the two major characters—artist Annie Oh and her ex-husband Orion—are still bound by the past and their three distinctly different children even as she is on the verge of marrying her art dealer patron, Viveca. Their present-day story is wrapped in more than one past—Annie's initial artistic forays inspired by the discovery of art created by a troubled lesser-known African American "primitive" painter, her own difficult childhood, and Orion's professional difficulties. Lamb creates a complex and terrifying villain in one of Annie's relatives, and readers are forced constantly to reexamine their sympathies for one character or another. The novel is perfectly suited to its multiple readers, including Maggi-Meg Reed, George Guidall, Edoardo Ballerini, and the author as Orion. VERDICT Highly recommended for fiction audiences and lovers of well-presented audiobooks. ["Clear and sweetly flowing; highly recommended," read the starred review of the Harper hc, LJ 9/15/13.]—Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo
Publishers Weekly
Set mostly in Connecticut, Lamb's (She's Come Undone) fifth novel takes on race, class, sexuality, and art, sometimes clumsily, yet the complex plot is captivating. On the brink of her second marriage, artist Annie Oh fis plagued by "lifestyle guilt." After a tormented childhood—a flood that killed her mother and sister; a stint in foster care; abuse at the hands of her cousin—Annie leaves her husband, Dr. Orion Oh, for a woman: art dealer Viveca Christophoulos-Shabbas. The Ohs' three children—all grown—accept their mother's decision, though Andrew is more reluctant than his sisters, Marissa and Ariane. Lamb seems eager to include many permutations of American identity: Orion is Chinese-Italian, Viveca is Greek–and previously married to an Arab man to boot. A section narrated by a Ku Klux Klansman's widow is unconvincing, torn between racism and apology. However Lamb excels at delivering unexpected blows to his characters, ratcheting up the suspense to the final page. Agent: Kassie Evashevski,United Talent Agency. (Nov.)
Miami Herald
“Wally Lamb’s fifth work of fiction…is a mesmerizing novel about a family in crisis that pulls together many characters and diverse themes and sets the bulk of its action against our collective modern angst and ambivalence.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“In his singularly perceptive voice, Lamb immerses his characters and the novel’s readers in powerful moments of hope and redemption and shocking descriptions of violence and abuse… fascinating.”
Ms. Magazine
“Alternating voices of the wife, husband and their three children pain a vivid portrait of a marriage and reveal the shifting meaning of family.”
“So far my favorite scene involves the throwing of multiple glasses of Bordeaux at three Vera Wang wedding dresses. At least you know you won’t be bored
The Advocate
“Wally Lamb delivers a powerful and engaging novel filled with complexities and intricacies of human nature and family dysfunction. . . this is a book not to be missed.”
Real Simple
“Through alternating perspectives this addicting novel reveals how secrets can define a person and wreak havoc on her loved ones.”
“Wally Lamb’s latest, WE ARE WATER, works the same magic as his 1992 Oprah-anointed breakthrough, She’s Come Undone, capturing a snapshot of modern life (class struggle, racial violence) through the lens of a family faced with jarring news from its matriarchal figure.”
Entertainment Weekly
“…this family saga is hard to put down.”
USA Today
“It’s a sign of a good novel when the reader slowly savors the final chapters, both eager to discover the ending and dreading saying goodbye to the characters. We Are Water is a book worth diving into.”
Kirkus Reviews
A searching novel of contemporary manners--and long-buried secrets--by seasoned storyteller Lamb (Wishin' and Hopin', 2009, etc.). Lamb's latest opens almost as a police procedural, its point of view that of one Gualtiero Agnello (hint: agnello means "lamb" in Italian), rife with racial and sexual overtones. Fast-forward five decades, and it's a different world, the POV now taken by an artist named Annie Oh, sharp-eyed and smart, who is attending to details of her upcoming nuptials to her partner and agent, Viveca, who has chosen a wedding dress with a name, Gaia. Notes Annie, reflecting on the Greek myth underlying the name, "[c]haos, incest, monsters, warring siblings: it's a strange name for a wedding dress." That thought foreshadows much of Lamb's theme, which inhabits the still-waters-run-deep school of narrative: Annie has attained some renown, is apparently adjusted to divorce from her husband, a clinical psychologist named Orion (Greek myth again, though he's Chinese) Oh, and is apparently bound for a later life of happiness. Ah, but then reality intrudes in various forms, from Viveca's request for a prenup to the long-suppressed past, in which natural disaster meets familial dysfunction. The story is elaborate and unpredictable, and the use of multiple narrators is wise, considering that there are a few Rashomon moments in this leisurely unfolding narrative. The characters are at once sympathetic and flawed and mostly, by the end, self-aware (Orion on Annie: "I'd just let her float away. But at the time, I couldn't admit that. It was easier to think of myself as Viveca's victim than to cop to my own culpability"). We all know that life is tangled and messy. Still, in reminding readers of this fact, Lamb turns in a satisfyingly grown-up story, elegantly written.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 5.84(h) x 2.15(d)

Meet the Author

Wally Lamb is the author of the New York Times and national bestseller The Hour I First Believed, as well as the novels She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, both #1 New York Times bestsellers and Oprah's Book Club selections. He lives in Connecticut with his family.

Brief Biography

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

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We Are Water: A Novel 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 197 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all of this author's works, this one fell far to short of my expectations. In fact, i have read them all at least twice. Each of this author's prior works have left me with en epiphany unique to each story, with the exception of "A Wishing and a Hoping"' which was just fun all the way around. Wally Lamb has previously written books that address a wide array of evocative, important issues such as mental illness, abuse, racism, and other issues that, if you had lived during his time references, one could relate and place within one's own life experiences, and he wrote it tight, and he wrote it well; well enough for me to not pick up another book right away but for me to think on and ponder over for time. He took care with his words. I miss this in his new book, and i feel that he sold short in this book. Basically, his characters are difficult to follow in this book. Almost all of them have the same voice. I had read that this author took great pride in writing from a woman's perspective in "She's Come Undone". He missed the mark here. Characters that would have fleshed out well was the KKK man's wife. That chapter was excellent. I could picture that woman spying in a movie theatre, she was authentic. He should have followed that wpman's daughter's story more. She knew the murdered Joe J. It is never followed thru except when she reappears at the end of the story. What a missed opportunity for a story line. Instead, the book becomes weighted down with excessive and pointless conversations. How he handles the sexual abuse of a child, how he directs her life thru her sexual experimenting and eventual marriage to a psychologist, has three children, abuses her own child while creating angry art. Then she becomes attracted to the owner of the gallery and marries her. It is difficult tp like this woman who destroys the life of her family. I empathize with children who are abused and sexually molested. However, she is the first person to abuse her own son. She is redeemed by being at her exhusband's side during something the reader sees coming a mile away but as at other times in this book, the author withholds so much of the parts in the story it feels as though his timing is off. As noted earlier, it feels as though his heart wasn't in this one. As if he was so busy being politically correct that he truly sacrifices the story line. I truly hope his next book is better. It was interesting, but not enough to make me want to pick it up again..........Caren1977
RebeccaScaglione More than 1 year ago
I received this book in exchange for a fair and honest review from TLC Book Tours, which was fabulous because, I mean, I was able to get a WALLY LAMB book!!!  Score!  We Are Water by Wally Lamb is an emotional book about what it means to be a family.  It is also a book of secrets. Annie Oh is a famous artist who left her husband, Orion Oh, after over 20 years of marriage in order to marry her lover Vivica.  Annie has some anger that fuels her art, coming from deep seeded secrets that no one knows. Orion also has some anger.  He’s angry that Annie left him, angry that she is going to remarry in their hometown. . . Then there’s Ariane, the goody goody daughter, and her twin brother Andrew who is born again, and their younger sister Marissa who is the struggling actress.  All three siblings have their own secrets and life struggles to work out. Annie’s approaching wedding brings the family together, and forces them to be honest with their secrets. We Are Water by Wally Lamb is a more subtle read.  I enjoyed it, and would recommend it to fans of his novels.  However, I do have to say that She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True were less subtle and really grabbed me. I had a few issues with pieces of Lamb’s writing.  Sometimes it was fabulous, but I wasn’t a fan of some of the stream of consciousness paragraphs, as well as there being parts of the book with way too much dialogue. Thanks for reading, Rebecca @ Love at First Book
Humbee More than 1 year ago
This is a very difficult review for me to write. I've thought about it for a couple of days now and wondered if I'd get it down right for you. I've been an avid fan of Wally Lamb's for many, many years and had such excitement when I learned he had a new book out. I rushed to get a copy. I'm sad to say this one was a disappointment to me in some major ways, although I did grasp the over all story and could appreciate what Mr. Lamb's intention was in telling it. (See Summary above) This is first of all a long book that became increasingly a drain to read as I found it less engaging. It was mostly a stream of consciousness novel, and I'm not fond of that writing style (I've never been a James Joyce fan) so the 570 some pages became a torture that I seemed never to make headway on. I began to dread picking the book up. Does this tell you something? While I expected it to be a book that was focused more on the story of a lesbian couple, it really wasn't. It's more a story of a wildly dysfunctional and bleeding family told mostly from the perspective of a wildly dysfunctional psychologist father. Which would have been fine if it were interesting... While the book is divided into chapters/segments written from the minds and voices of the different characters, it weighed heavily on the view of the father of the family, it seemed to me. I found I couldn't feel an affinity with any of these characters. For the most part they were a very whiny and self-serving bunch...self-absorbed in their different psychosis's. It became a downer. It wasn't a pleasant read. While we are given the most minute details of the characters and their personal issues, this was couched in a stream of consciousness that was boring. It clogged things up. There seemed no light at the end of the dark tunnel as life's greatest horror stories were revealed. Just too wordy and dense. I was soundly disappointed. Over the course of his career, I've been an avid reader and follower of Wally Lamb. I feel this one falls short of his other writings. It may be a melting pot of his life experiences, and perhaps his informative times with the women prisoners he's encountered. I have no idea. Maybe it was a story just too close for him to write about successfully. In wrapping up, again, I found "We Are Water" a struggle to get through. I finished it because it was a Wally Lamb book and I really wanted to push my way through it hoping it would get better. Was the story worth it ultimately? Not in my opinion. Would it have been better in another format/writing style? Perhaps. I'm sad to say it was disappointing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fantastic book, just like all Wally Lamb's work. He never disappoints. The trouble is I have to read his books as fast as I can, then there is a terrible let-down when I'm done. I hardly ever read a book twice, but have read most of his again.
BookwenchSB More than 1 year ago
I hesitated to start the book because Ive read all his novels and I knew that once I started to read I would not be able to put it down and then it would end. This story opened my eyes wide to how the actions of others affect our life. All families have secrets and emotional situations that have to be resolved, sometimes hurting others. Now I will have to wait for the next Wally Lamb remarkable story. Loved loved this book!! Read it in two days, even into the wee hours of the morning.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all of Wally Lambs books and loved them all. This book was fantastic. I had a very hard time putting it down. I finished it in two days. Im looking foward to the next one he writes!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The dialogue of a pedophile molesting young girls, 10 years old,is very disturbing! I did not want to get into the mind of a child molester!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am so sorry I bought this book.  It could be a wonderful story, but Mr. Lamb's detailed descriptions of child abuse are uncalled for. What his point in doing this is, I am not sure.  Was I supposed to feel sorry for Kent because he could not control himself?  Get real.  Is he suggesting that people are gay because they were abused as children?  Get educated. I will no longer read his books. I am sorry I spent my hard earned money on this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Left much to be desired. Way to long, so so plot. would not recommend
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved how the book is told through so many different people, and how it all ties together.
bonnieCA More than 1 year ago
As usual, Wally Lamb explores the psyches of broken people and the ripple effect. His characters just come alive and you feel like you're sharing their lives. It ended too soon!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i enjoyed every minute I spent with this book. I liked the characters, especially Orion. I felt the parts dealing with child abuse were very thoughtful and informative . It was interesting to see how the adult children felt about there mother being a lesbian. Most of all it showed how secrets can affect an individual or a family for years to come. We must learn not to blame ourselves not to let it lessen our self worth and most of all talk to a trusted advisor. I always enjoy Wally Lamb's books and have suggested this as a book for my bookclub not only because we live on the cape but I felt the topics covered were very current CAPE COD FAN
MusicLiteratureMotherhood More than 1 year ago
I loved this book, as I have all of Wally's novels. He has an incredible way of writing from a woman's perspective like no man has done before. After reading "She's Come Undone" when I was 16, I became a huge fan of his writing style and what strikes me most after reading all of his books, is how different and insanely human he is able to make his characters. These people spring to life and stay in your psyche long after you've finished writing. Wally handles taboo subjects incredibly well, making them seem as commonplace as they truly are. I'd recommend this to anyone looking to get deeply involved in a novel, and someone who loves well written literature.
readzalot2 More than 1 year ago
Oh how I loved this book! I am a huge fan of Wally Lamb's writing. I have read I Know This Much is True and She's Come Undone three times each! We Are Water is my favorite of all....I loved the characters, the story lines, the surprises, the emotions....there was nothing I didn't love about this story! I gasped, I cried, I laughed, I agonized....and I am truly jealous of readers who pick up this book for the first time and start on that first page. Wally Lamb, thank you for sharing your storytelling talent with those of us who yearn for a novel that we can delve into....no one does it as well as you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not as good as previous novels but I did enjoy it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As usual a sensitive, deep, funny book. I laughed ,out loud, and I cried. The way he writes, the way he phrases his words, bring his characters to life in a way that few authors can.
MWgal More than 1 year ago
Wally Lamb does it again! Another book of intrigue and wisdom,albeit brutally so. Thank you, Mr. Lamb for sharing your deep psychological insight into painfully difficult topics.
SharonfromCO More than 1 year ago
I have read all of Wally Lamb's books and was eager to see this….but it is by far his worst--too long, too mundane, too predictable, too insipid. Without giving away plot, I will say that as a therapist for 40 years, the father was totally unbelievable. The rest of the characters were shallowly developed. I really did not like this book. The sex felt gratuitous and the resolution was way way way too over the top. Sorry--I really wanted to like this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Every single one of Wally Lamb's books have moved me and kept me wishing for clarity and relief for his protagonist. I love how in We are Water you feel that for several charecters as there isn't onlyone protagonist. I truly felt connected to very charecter, and yet again, I analyze my own life and pray for others on their difficuly journies.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all of Wally Lamb's books & this book certainly does not disappoint. It is a story of a family dealing with the realities in today's society & the various ways they cope with each of their individual problems. Truly wonderful.
SUEHAV More than 1 year ago
Why are some of the reviews "rediculous conversations" with jokers who use this as their own personal forum? Makes me think that B&N review guidelines are a joke! I DID read the book & agree that it's not my favorite of the author's work. Had to skip the child abuse descriptions. I do like the way the author writes & will read any others he does.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love Wally Lamb's writing. I read everything I can get my hands on!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book delved into characters, like their children, who simply were not important to Annie's struggle. I found myself skimming through chapters simply to finish. Kent should have been in the story way before he is introduced. I have loved other Wally Lamb books but this one was simply dull.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Moving ciuldnt put it down