Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Hour I First Believed

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Hello everyone!  I am sorry I have been absent for a few weeks but seriously The Road blew me away so much that I just couldn't get into another book and so I was in a little bit of a rut.  And The Hour I First Believed was SOOOOO long that it took me a while to listen to the whole darn thing during my work commute.  But I finished it and so now I must tell you all about it! 

I don't really know what to think about Wally Lamb sometimes honestly.  I like him, I have read all his books, but I always have a moment in all his stories that I ask my self "where in the hell is this going" or "what the hell did I just read".  First of all his books are chunksters and The Hour I First Believed came in at 750 pages (or 20 HOURS on the audio book) so you have to like a hefty read to enjoy any of his tomes.   The writing was beautiful and the stories are poignant and he always tackles hard issues and very heavy topics.  Something that I really enjoy about Wally Lambs fiction is that all his stories take place in the fictional town of Three Rivers Connecticut, and because Three Rivers isn't a very large town apparently, some of the characters from each book kinda make cameo appearance in the other books but by no means do the stories go together as a series.  The other thing that these books have in common are their page count and the fact that Lamb likes to write about disturbed people with a collection of psychological disorders such as schizophrenia (I Know This Much is True), Eating disorders (She's Come Undone), and post traumatic stress disorder (The Hour I First Believed).  And almost all the time there is someone getting committed to some sort of "retreat" to get their act together.  But all in all the books are interesting and SO full of layers that you start to wonder if you are reading an onion and how in the crap are all the layers going to come together in the end.

The Hour I First Believe is about a man named Caelum Quirk, a literary teacher that has an issue with intimacy (he is on wife number 3).  After Caelum's third wife, Maureen, has an affair, they decide to move away from Three Rivers Connecticut and start fresh in Littleton Colorado.  The year is 1999 and I am sure you can see where all this is going (and you are just screaming for it not to go there).  While Caelum is back home in Connecticut making arrangements for his Aunts funeral he turns on the TV to see Columbine High School (the school where he teaches and his wife is a nurse) being shot up by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.  He rushes back to Colorado that night not knowing if his wife is alive or dead.  When he finds her alive he is relieved beyond words but over the next few days he realizes that life as they know it is over for them.  Maureen is suffering from a severe case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Eventually they choose to move back to Three Rivers and move into the Quirk family farm but though things get better for a while Maureen's life starts to spiral out of control as does Caelum's as they deal with this terrible disorder, family secrets, and complicated relationships with each other and their loved ones.

I can't really describe to you exactly what the book is about because the PTSD and Columbine High School and Maureen's issues are only a very small part of this story yet they are the catalyst for everything else in this multi layered book.  There is so much more that you would just have to read it for yourself to understand exactly what I am saying.  I would recommend this book to anyone that is interested in psychology, sociology, or anthropology.  I would also recommend this book (and anything by Wally Lamb) to those who like a challenge, as Lamb provides his readers with meaty books not fluff.  On a side note (and one just about the audio version) I LOVED the reader George Guidall.  He brought each character alive so well it was amazing! I will search out other audio books he has read just to hear him again!

BOOK vs. MOVIE:  I don't really think books by Lamb are really movie quality.  You can't get into the dimensions that are in his writing in a 2 hour movie.  Also, I think even though it was so many years ago the Columbine presence in this book would be very disturbing for people to watch.

RATING: 4 Stars

Three More Reviews of The Hour I First Believed:

The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
ISBN 9780061703034
20 Discs (20 Hours 15 Minutes)
Narrated by George Guidall

If you liked The Hour I First Believed then try reading: I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb           


  1. I adored that book, and I adore Wally Lamb. I've read reviews that really dog THIFB, but I think it is epic!!

    I enjoy your reviews, and can't wait to hear what you have to say about THE MEMORY KEEPERS DAUGHTER, which I read recently.

  2. Great review, it sounds like a good book. I picked it up at a shop a week or so back and read the back cover, but then put it down because I wasn't really interested in reading a book about the Columbine High shooting. But if it's more of a catalyst for the action I might give it a go.

  3. Sounds like we had about the same experience with this one. And I see you had the same struggle I did - there is SO much to talk about, it is almost easier just to leave it at "read it to see for yourself!" Great job, though! And, welcome back.

  4. that looks good. I am following you from Book bloggers

  5. I liked this book, but not as much as She's Come Undone.

    You should read Couldn't Keep It To Myself. It's a collection of stories from women in prison that Lamb edited. It's really good.

  6. I agree that Lamb is a good writer; he does have a flair for the words which results in the "chunksters". Not sure about this book though; felt a little off emotionally compared to his previous works.

  7. I think you wrote a great review. You should receive a reward for listening to the whole thing. Congratulations.

  8. I agree 100%
    The Hour I First Believed was my very first online book review! ( Reading yours really reminded me of how recent that was. It feels like forever ago! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  9. This book bored me and I was so disappointed! I LOVED I Know This Much Is True... the other one, She's Come Undone, I didn't care for but I thought was well written.

  10. Thanks for this review - I have this book and am looking forward to getting to it. I really like Wally Lamb's books but I must admit the length of this one does intimidate me!

  11. Just happened to stop by from another person's link from the blog hop and you have convinced me to read the Road and Monstrumologist. Thanks.