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She's Come Undone Paperback – December 1, 1996
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
A highly, highly recommended read for anyone who feels they have the stomach for it. While many of the topics addressed should be discussed with teenagers, I would not recommend a young reader going this one alone. There are astonishingly important lessons here. Lessons for all of us.
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.
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.
And while the plot is riveting--no spoilers here!--what makes this book simply sing is the character development. Dolores and all of the people in her life just jump off the page and become fully human.
The detail is what enthralled me the most about the writing; it's the kind of detail that not only made me envision the story, but also taste, smell and hear it.
And when I finished the book, I felt enriched and renewed by having read it. If I could give this book 10 stars, I would. Wally Lamb is a genius. Highly recommended.