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We Are Water: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 22, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Lamb’s much-anticipated new novel explores the secrets of a Connecticut family on the occasion of mother Annie’s remarriage to another woman. An artist who has found great success recycling junk into angry visual art, Annie is ambivalent about marrying Viveca, the art dealer responsible for her success. Meanwhile, Annie’s ex-husband, Orion, struggles to accept Annie’s remarriage and remake himself after messing up his career as a psychologist. And their kids are not exactly all right either. But, in classic Lamb fashion, this is less a story about the drama of the present or any of the various hot-button issues Lamb invokes (gay marriage, Christian Fundamentalism, Obama’s presidency) than it is a lesson about how the traumas of the past play themselves out in the present, and how moral courage and religious faith are the key to overcoming that which haunts us. Here the old wounds are deep indeed—abandonment, addiction, decades-old racial conflict, and lots of child abuse—and Lamb does not hold back describing them in all their messiness. As he did in his Oprah-endorsed blockbusters She’s Come Undone (1992) and I Know This Much Is True (1998), Lamb avoids irony and tends to spoon-feed his readers rather than let them find their own meanings in the text. But few authors are as compassionate toward their characters or as stirring in their redemption narratives. Librarians should expect heavy demand. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The publisher’s publicity campaign will match in intensity the public library response to a new book by a library favorite. --Brendan Driscoll

Review

“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.” (USA Today, 4-star review)

“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.” (Miami Herald)

“We are water: ‘fluid, flexible when we have to be. But strong and destructive, too.’ That’s evident in this emotionally involving new novel from the author of She’s Come Undone….Clear and sweetly flowing; highly recommended.” (Library Journal, starred review)

“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.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“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.” (Out.com)

“Through alternating perspectives this addicting novel reveals how secrets can define a person and wreak havoc on her loved ones.” (Real Simple)

“Alternating voices of the wife, husband and their three children pain a vivid portrait of a marriage and reveal the shifting meaning of family.” (Ms. Magazine)

“Lamb excels at delivering unexpected blows to his characters, ratcheting up the suspense to the final page.” (Publishers Weekly)

“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.” (Kirkus)

“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 (People.com)

“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.” (The Advocate)

“…this family saga is hard to put down.” (Entertainment Weekly)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (October 22, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061941026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061941023
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,125 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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

Love Wally Lamb, loved the story and I love how he develops his characters.
Ashley Brooke Woosley
You don't really want to put it down until you've finished it but as they are generally quite long books it's hard to find time to read them all in one sitting.
Lina
I felt as though he was bored with it in the end, and the way he wrapped up some of the characters' stories was a bit too convenient.
Kathleen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

222 of 232 people found the following review helpful By Orion VINE VOICE on July 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In 1963, a dam ruptures and floods a small town in Connecticut, killing several people. Forty-five years later, the daughter of the young mother killed in the tragedy is preparing to join her partner in an elaborate gay marriage ceremony. These two events, and all the things that happen in between, are the basis of this wonderful book.

Annie Oh, first a daughter, then an orphan, then a wife and mother, then an artist, and finally a lesbian lover, has lived a life so full it seems like she has lived more than one lifetime. Through it all, the secrets she keeps from her early childhood affect herself and everyone around her. In the end, she can't continue to hide her past and finally has to confront it.

It's not a terribly complicated story, but the way Wally Lamb tells it is perfect. Details emerge from different points of view until everything is revealed. He focuses on the inner dialogs of the people involved, and in the process we get to know all the characters very well. It's an ambitious way to tell a story, and I don't think very many writers could pull it off as well as he does it. He seems to have a special insight.

In the end, it's not just a book about tragedy and secrets. It's also about forgiveness, redemption, and enduring love. These are not perfect people, but they are very good people. I was glad I got to know them.
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142 of 147 people found the following review helpful By T. K. Paul on August 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I cherished the experience of reading Lamb's "I Know This Much is True." And I enjoyed "She's Come Undone" as well, but not as much.

"We Are Water" reminds of "I Know This Much is True" in that it explores a family's secrets and sucks the reader in to the point where it's exquisitely uncomfortable to process what you're reading. The subject matter is not lightweight in either book, but still comes across as completely believable. The racism, child molestation, homophobia, etc. are difficult issues to read about from the different characters' point of view, but well worth it to bring you to the book's fabulous conclusion.

Some find his books verbose. I do not. There is no author on the planet, female or male, that can write female characters better than Wally Lamb. His character development, overall, is second to none. (Orion, Annie Oh's husband, is a particularly unforgettable character in this book.)

The Wally Lamb books I've read will never leave me.
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185 of 208 people found the following review helpful By RobynJC VINE VOICE on August 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Annie Oh, a fiftysomething divorced mother of three grown children, is a master of secrets. But it's the weekend of her second marriage - to a female gallery owner and art dealer -- and her secrets are about to come tumbling out; both those from her childhood, of the wrongs that were done to her, and those from her adulthood, the wrongs that she did to others. This weekend will change the entire course of her family's life. Forever, and not necessarily for better.

I admire the craft behind We Are Water. Wally Lamb has long been a favorite writer of mine and he remains the most astute writer of people and character that I have ever read. In this book he slips effortlessly under the skin of Annie, the lesbian art dealer who is both abused and abuser; her husband Orion, the psychologist who is both professionally astute and personally blind; her older daughter Ariane, the perfectionist with the low self-esteem; her younger daughter Marissa, aspiring actress and practicing alcoholic; and Andrew, my personal most interesting character, the rebellious child turned Army nurse turned born-again fundamentalist. Plus a few other characters with unique relationships to the Ohs, who I won't reveal here, to preserve the surprise. Mr. Lamb practices fictional psychology like a surgeon, with a knife calibrated to the slightest edge; he is precise and brilliant and gets right to the heart of the matter. Also, he has an incredible ability to take on "unsympathetic" characters - molesters and child abusers - and make you glide from understanding them to being horrified by them, all in one smooth narrative flow.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Karie Hoskins VINE VOICE on September 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"We Are Water" was a book I was surprised to find myself liking. The characters in this book are far from perfect - most are very deeply flawed. There are far more shades of black and grey than light. And yet, the way Wally Lamb draws them out, fills in the details of their lives so gradually, the reader cannot help but become invested in their lives. Accept them for who they are. I say that I was surprised because I usually have a difficult time with books about characters that do awful things. UNLESS. The writer is skillful enough to force me to see their humanness. See that they are not simply the actions they take or the words they say - but are also a product of other characters actions and words. "We Are Water" does this beautifully.

Lamb creates a web of characters and events that tie into one another in ways the reader only gradually understands. The central character is Annie Oh, an up-and-coming artist during the present time of the book. Her children Andrew, Ariane and Marissa, and her husband/ex-husband Orion are the other most central figures. Their lives, and much of the most powerful imagery is tied to water. The ocean, a flood and its aftermath that had an impact on all of their lives. "Standing beside this dead, devoured seal, I rear back and hurl the bag, as far as I can, into the grey-green water. I watch it sink. Then I jimmy my wedding ring back and forth until it slips over the knuckle and off my finger. I fling it into the sea. Am I crying? Laughing? Both? Who am I, now that I've thrown my life into the ocean? Who will I be?"

Throughout the book, references to water are used - sometimes in the more traditional/spiritual sense - the restorative/healing power. But almost more often, the water images are violent and angry.
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