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She's Come Undone Paperback – December 1, 1996

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Editorial Reviews Review

Oprah Book Club® Selection, January 1997: "Mine is a story of craving; an unreliable account of lusts and troubles that began, somehow, in 1956 on the day our free television was delivered." So begins the story of Dolores Price, the unconventional heroine of Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone. Dolores is a class-A emotional basket case, and why shouldn't she be? She's suffered almost every abuse and familial travesty that exists: Her father is a violent, philandering liar; her mother has the mental and emotional consistency of Jell-O; and the men in her life are probably the gender's most loathsome creatures. But Dolores is no quitter; she battles her woes with a sense of self-indulgence and gluttony rivaled only by Henry VIII. Hers is a dysfunctional Wonder Years, where growing up in the golden era was anything but ideal. While most kids her age were dealing with the monumental importance of the latest Beatles single and how college turned an older sibling into a long-haired hippie, Dolores was grappling with such issues as divorce, rape, and mental illness. Whether you're disgusted by her antics or moved by her pathetic ploys, you'll be drawn into Dolores's warped, hilarious, Mallomar-munching world.

From Publishers Weekly

In this engaging first novel, narrator Dolores Price recounts her life story from age four to age 40. The troubled product of a stormy marriage, she is already sipping Maalox in grade school. Then her father walks out on her mother, who suffers a nervous collapse, and Dolores moves to her repressive grandmother's house in Rhode Island. By the time she reaches eighth grade, she has only one friend: a boarder who eventually rapes her. Anesthetizing herself with junk food and soap operas, Dolores becomes an obese, isolated young woman who attempts suicide during her first semester in college and spends seven years in a mental institution. Oddly enough, this relentless parade of disasters makes for interesting reading. The author keenly evokes his protagonist's profound alienation and self-loathing, endowing Dolores with a bleak sense of humor that keeps readers rooting for her. Ironically, the book itself "comes undone" as its heroine develops self-esteem, at which point an absorbing portrait of a woman on a collision course with her problems turns into a disappointing series of cliches about love, forgiveness and Dolores's ticking biological clock. Nonetheless, this is a promising debut.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press; Oprah's Book Club edition (December 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671003755
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671003753
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,676 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,891 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Wally Lamb's first two novels, She's Come Undone (Simon & Schuster/Pocket, 1992) and I Know This Much Is True (HarperCollins/ReganBooks, 1998), were # 1 New York Times bestsellers, New York Times Notable Books of the Year, and featured titles of Oprah's Book Club. I Know This Much Is True was a Book of the Month Club main selection and the June 1999 featured selection of the Bertelsman Book Club, the national book club of Germany. Between them, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True have been translated into eighteen languages. Lamb is also the editor of the nonfiction anthologies Couldn't Keep It to Myself: Testimonies from Our Imprisoned Sisters (HarperCollins/ReganBooks, 2003) and I'll Fly Away (HarperCollins, 2007), collections of autobiographical essays which evolved from a writing workshop Lamb facilitates at Connecticut's York Correctional Institute, a maximum-security prison for women. He has served as a Connecticut Department of Corrections volunteer from 1999 to the present. Wally Lamb is a Connecticut native who holds Bachelors and Masters Degrees in teaching from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College. Lamb was in the ninth year of his twenty-five-year career as a high school English teacher at his alma mater, the Norwich Free Academy, when he began to write fiction in 1981. He has also taught writing at the University of Connecticut, where he directed the English Department's creative writing program. Wally Lamb has said of his fiction, "Although my characters' lives don't much resemble my own, what we share is that we are imperfect people seeking to become better people. I write fiction so that I can move beyond the boundaries and limitations of my own experiences and better understand the lives of others. That's also why I teach. As challenging as it sometimes is to balance the two vocations, writing and teaching are, for me, intertwined." Honors for Wally Lamb include: the Connecticut Center for the Book's Lifetime Achievement Award, the Connecticut Bar Association's Distinguished Public Service Award, the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, the Connecticut Governor's Arts Award, The National Institute of Business/Apple Computers "Thanks to Teachers" Award. Lamb has received Distinguished Alumni awards from Vermont College and the University of Connecticut. He was the 1999 recipient of the New England Book Award for fiction. I Know This Much Is True won the Friends of the Library USA Readers' Choice Award for best novel of 1998, the result of a national poll, and the Kenneth Johnson Memorial Book Award, which honored the novel's contribution to the anti-stigmatization of mental illness. She's Come Undone was a 1992 "Top Ten" Book of the Year selection in People magazine and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Best First Novel of 1992. Wally Lamb's third novel, The Hour I First Believed, explores chaos theory by interfacing several generations of a fictional Connecticut family with such nonfictional American events as the Civil War, the Columbine High School shootings of 1999, the Iraq War, and Hurricane Katrina. The book will be published by HarperCollins in November of 2008.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

329 of 345 people found the following review helpful By D. Austin on September 23, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
If someone would have told me six weeks ago that by now I would have read and been completely absorbed by the tale of a 257 pound girl named Delores I would have told them they were out of their mind. But strange things happen when I find myself without something to read. Invariably I turn to our home library to consider reading a book that my wife purchased, or perhaps re-reading one of my old favorites. This time "She's Come Undone" caught my attention. "Mine is a story of craving; an unreliable account of lusts and troubles that began, somehow, in 1956 on the day our free television was delivered," said the back cover. "That's an interesting hook," I thought. "And the author is a man delivering a first person female narrative? Hmmmm... may have to give ole Wally a few pages of my interest."
That was all Wally needed. Within just the first few pages describing Delores' perfectly natural early childhood and allusions to her future woes I was engrossed.
This book is about the possibly healing affects we can have as friends and the potentially destructive power we have as family. It is about the undeniable value of positive self-image and the brutal consequences of inappropriate guilt. It is about divorce, it is about AIDS, it is about obesity, and it is about rape and abortion. It is about hope and love. It contains several hundred of the most physically painful pages that I have ever read, interrupted only intermittently with some dark joke made as Delores faces her struggles. In the space of 465 pages Wally brings to life not a classic heroine who defeats all of her foes, but a woman simply trying to survive. Even after a week I feel sympathy for this illusion created by Wally Lamb, and throughout the day I look for her. Sadly, I see her in many faces.
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276 of 316 people found the following review helpful By Michael Erisman on September 2, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I picked up this book recently and once I started it I couldn't put it down. This book is written exceptionally well, and the characters and story flow smoothly and realistically. I was stunned when I realized it was not an autobiography, and was written by a man! The first person voice of a female is quite convincing. I was more than impressed with the writing and the story. Any book that can evoke emotions like this does, is worth looking into.
That said, should you read this book? It depends. All of the highlights above are true, but, sadly the overall effect is depressing. I kept waiting for the situation to improve, for the story to pick up, for the victim mentality to end. It doesn't.
I gave the book 3 stars, 5 for writing, and 1 for the investment of several hours into what proved to be a draining and disturbing look into the life of a troubled young woman. I liken the experience to waking up from a bad dream, and feeling the lingering effects into the day. Your call as to whether you wish to jump on board and go along for the ride.
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111 of 132 people found the following review helpful By Dianna Setterfield on October 8, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book was terrific! She's Come Undone is a powerful epic, an emotional journey in the life of Dolores Price. Wally Lamb's Dolores is a perfectly flawed character and easy to get attached to. Brilliant writing, a fabulous point-of-view of a female told through the hand of a male. How did he do it with such spot-on honesty?
She's Come Undone begins in the year 1956 when Dolores is 4 and her family gets a brand new television. Soon, this seemingly normal life begins to unravel, leaving Dolores the product of a marriage gone wrong. While reading this book, I feel this moment of her parents' divorce became the crucial building block of Dolores's downward spiral. And while I do not want to spoil the plot for you, I will say that Dolores lives through some of the most terrible events, and desperately struggles (though at times seems indifferent) to regain the normalcy she once had.
Vivid and emotional, this wild ride pulls your heartstrings and strikes your nerves, sometimes within the same sentence. Pages full of pain and sadness, but also sprinkled with a snappy attitude that had me laughing in my seat. I felt a certain kinship, an almost sisterly devotion toward Dolores, and I praise Wally Lamb for creating this wonderfully real and troubled character.
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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
I got this book last christmas from my grandmother. I looked at it and I didn't have much of a desire to read such a big book that would interfere with my busy teenage agenda. But I sat down the nextday and started to read it. And Wally Lamb's amazing attempt at being a man writing a book through a woman's perspective, pulled me away from my reality and caused me to lock myself away in my room until' I was through with it. I kept having to remind my self that a woman didn't write it. This book remind's me much of my self and how hard it is to go through life being a overweight teenager. The charicters that made fun of her such as the two sisters that lived down the road, make me want to reach inside the book and slap them cause they remind me so much as my past and present enemies. I could feel her pain, her obessions, her anger, and I felt like I was there, I WAS HER. I do warn that this book is very adult and complicated, and I don't reconmend it for anyone who isn't mentaly mature enough to handle the grown-up language and situations that engage within this book. I am 15 years of age, but I have been raised in a home where the reality isn't locked up and hiddin away from me so I can stay shelterd from the disturbing truths. I will not tell you the story for I think that you should explore it for your self, but I wanted people know what the book did for me, now go out and read it and find out what it will do to you.
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