38 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Not the Best of Lamb's Work,
This review is from: We Are Water: A Novel (Hardcover)
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Annie Oh is 52 years old and divorced from her husband of 27 years, Orion Oh, a psychologist. She is about to marry Vivica, her gallery owner and lover. Annie is a successful New York artist who makes assemblages out of found objects that sell for $40,000 or more. Vivica is independently wealthy. They are about to get married in Connecticut and the wedding is a big bash. Annie is excited that her three adult children will all be attending the wedding. Ariane is the director of a soup kitchen in San Francisco and has just gotten pregnant by artificial insemination. Marissa lives in New York and lives a life on the edge. Andrew is a lieutenant in the army, doing nursing with PTSD victims. He is also a born-again Christian.
Annie has a lot of secrets in her life, ones that will come out during the wedding and fill in a lot of the blanks in the story up until then. She has had anger problems with her children while they were growing up, especially Andrew whom she abused physically. No one knew about this and the children did not tell their father who had no clue as to what was going on. The reasons for the abuse will come out during the wedding weekend.
The story is told from the vantage points of different characters - Orion, Annie, Marissa, Andrew, Ariane and others. They will all flow together and the story will be fleshed out as it continues. At times we are not sure what is coming and why a particular person is telling his story. However, it will all pan out.
I had trouble reading the first 200 pages. Though it's a page-turner, I was not all that invested in the characters. I loved She's Come Undone (Oprah's Book Club) andI Know This Much Is True: A Novel (P.S.). This book does not come up to these two. It is too long and the characters are not as riveting as the ones in the other two novels. It is not Lamb's best endeavor.
I became more invested in the book after page 300 and began to understand Annie's secrets though I had guessed a lot of them previously. Some of the chapters were repetitive and the information was told repeatedly as though the reader was not intelligent enough to remember things.
Basically it is the story of the Oh's 27 year marriage and the divorce, Annie's decision to marry Vivica in New York, a state that has legalized gay marriage. Each of the children has different feeling about their mother's impending marriage but they all put their feelings to the side in order to attend the wedding.
The book goes into Annie's anger problems with her children while they were little, especially Andrew, who she abused while in fugue states. The answers to why this happened becomes revealed late in the novel. I found the story interesting but not as strong as the other two novels he's written. I wish I had liked it better as it is 500+ pages and rather long. I think a good editor could have culled it to about 400 pages without losing anything important from the novel.
Overall, I found it repetitious and at times even boring. I found myself continuing on because I wanted to know what happened at the end. I found out and was more understanding of Annie and the whole world she lived in.
Mixed in with the story are red herrings - Jopsephus Jones, a black painter who lived in a cabin on the Oh's land a long time ago who is now a renowned artist, and other mismatched stories that really don't add to the story's crux. The prologue doesn't really have much of a bearing on the novel either.
I just wish I had been more invested in what I was reading.
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 11, 2013 5:23:57 AM PDT
Jill I. Shtulman says:
Actually, Bonnie, your review reads more like a "3", which is disheartening. I was so hoping to connect with this new book of Lamb's. I absolutely loved She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True...but I didn't particularly like his last book. Well, I'm not going to rush to read it now. You raise some red herrings.
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 11, 2013 6:10:55 AM PDT
Sorry Jill, it just was not in the same league as his last books. Bonnie
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 11, 2013 6:16:57 AM PDT
Pamela A. Poddany says:
Your review is right on -- it's always a disappointment when we have loved an authors first books then be let down by further works. I loved SHE'S COME UNDONE and I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE -- will plan on reading this one, just later rather than sooner.
Posted on Aug 12, 2013 1:25:52 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 12, 2013 6:36:50 PM PDT
Bonnie--you describe this book as boring, repetitive, overly long and, at intervals, condescending to our intelligence. I will often give a go at a 4 star book, but this sounds like a 2.75! At most! Sorry to challenge your rating, but most of what you say about this book is not positive. The only thing I got that was positive was that, at the end, you were more understanding of Annie.
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 12, 2013 5:27:43 PM PDT
You are right I will change my rating of this book to a three when I get home.
Posted on Sep 26, 2013 5:24:08 PM PDT
Bonnie, I don't think I've ever left a comment on a review before, but I wanted to thank you for saving me money and time. I loved I Know This Much is True, didn't like The Hour I First Believed but finished it, and liked She's Come Undone, so I definitely would've given this one a chance. However, I know from your review that I would not like this book. I don't think I've ever based a decision on one person's review, especially about a book by an author I like, but everything you've said here tells me that this is the kind of book I would hate. So thank you, and best wishes.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 26, 2013 6:26:03 PM PDT
Jo, Thank you for your kind comments. I was really disappointed in this book and I LOVED 'I Know This Much is True'. Maybe his next book will be better. Bonnie
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 25, 2013 5:15:19 PM PDT
Merridy Willson says:
I loved Wally Lamb's first two books but was not too excited about his third novel, and We are Water, his fourth novel, is disappointing as well. One of the biggest problems I have with the book is my dislike of the two central characters, and the book is often boring as well. I would give it about 2.5 stars.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 25, 2013 6:35:57 PM PDT
Merridy, It seems like we are on the same page with this book. I found it very disappointing as well. Bonnie
Posted on Dec 9, 2013 7:41:53 AM PST
Okay. So I agree that very little can come close to Lamb's "She's Come Undone", but I completely disagree with this review on so many levels. Lamb is a MASTER at creating characters that become so real you almost feel as though you are in the same room as them. Hence, the uncomfortable feeling and disgust when reading about Kent Kelly. That Lamb can write about such "un-likable" characters with such accuracy continues to amaze me. We find ourselves identifying with the characters and looking at our own "secrets" and foibles. The fact that Orion is a psychologist is not lost on this reader.
The red herrings you speak of, Josephus Jones and, perhaps, Belinda, are integral characters in that they help perpetuate the theme that our secrets keep us sick. Jones was black therefore a target of discrimination - Annie is gay, our 21st century pariah.
I did not love this book as much as some of his others but Lamb is a gifted author. Reading this book made me richer and gave me characters (and subjects) to ponder and discuss with others who equally enjoyed the book.
Sorry, I beg to differ from your review.