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We Are Water: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – August 12, 2014

4.1 out of 5 stars 1,600 customer reviews

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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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (August 12, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061941034
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061941030
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,600 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
At page 425 of 559 (4 more hours to go on Kindle) I finally stopped reading, wishing I'd done so sooner as I'd give anything to be able to unread the previous chapter narrated by a character who is a pedophile, first about how he was abused and forced to abuse as a very young child, and then he describes abusing a very young girl again and again, in detail, when he is a young man. So disturbing!

I loved Mr. Lamb's previous books but found this one to be poorly written, with lazy, repetitive word choices. For example, over and over characters use the word "that" when describing something (e.g. "that" Chinese restaurant)--to imply that the character to whom they're speaking (and I guess the reader) is familiar with it so no description is necessary. But all those "thats" started really bugging me. Lazy writing--the opposite of being specific.

The lead character, a female artist, makes "angry" artwork that sounds like total garbage and is abusive to her children; her husband/ex-husband is an incompetent shrink; their children unsuccessful; her new partner, an art dealer, seems shallow (I say "seems" because she is barely described even though she's a major part of the plot).

All of the characters seem like bloodless cardboard cutouts and the plot just meanders; more like reading a case file than literature.
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