Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, November 14, 2008

Wally Lamb will revive your faith in reading with The Hour I First Believed

In Wally Lamb's The Hour I First Believed, we are introduced to Caelum Quirk, a high school English teacher whose move to Littleton,Colorado with his third wife Maureen is primarily a means of keeping their marriage together. Back in his home town of Three Rivers,Ct.,Maureen had an affair with one of her co-workers that lead to Caelum's going after her lover with a wrench.

No blood was shed,but the resulting legal penalties and couples therapy made the Quirks more inclined to start over in a new location. The two of them found new jobs at Columbine High School,with Maureen becoming a school nurse.

Even with their joint efforts to make their relationship work,tensions still abound. Some of that tension becomes focused on Velvet Hoon,an at risk student who Caelum starts to mentor. Velvet is a tough talking,loudly dressing troubled girl that has a true gift for writing that both Caelum and Maureen encourage.

She does slowly begin to respond to the positive input she gets from the Quirks but is nervous about becoming socially accepted,so she seeks a way to alienate herself from Caelum. An open excuse is a missing signed copy of To Kill A Mockingbird from Caelum's home library,another comes in the form of a sexual proposition that Velvet makes to him one night when he drives her home after a birthday party.

He turns her down and then starts to disconnect from having anything more to do with her,which is made easier by Velvet's quitting school after acting out inappropriately during an awards ceremony for gifted students. Maureen still looks out for Velvet,not knowing about the sexual offer between her and Caelum.

During this time,Caelum receives word that his Aunt Lolly,his father's twin sister who tried to hold up the prison reform standards that her grandmother set up at the local women's correctional facility,has had a stroke.

He flies out alone to Three Rivers,to see what he can do for her(with Maureen planning to join him later on). While there,Lolly dies and Caelum is planning the funeral when the first news reports about the shootings at Columbine High appear on TV.

Caelum frantically returns to Littleton,where he finds Maureen alive but emotionally shattered. She survived the massacre by finding a space to hide out in,but is wracked by guilt and shock,along with concern about Velvet,who went to school that day to talk about re enrollment with Maureen.

The two of them decide to go back to the Quirk family homestead(which was once a somewhat thriving apple farm)in Three Rivers to recover,as well as deal with the estate of Aunt Lolly,who left it all to Caelum.

As Caelum attempts to help Maureen cope with her growing depression,he discovers some dark family secrets due to going through the elaborate collection of letters and various paperwork that his aunt had left behind. Caelum must ultimately make sense of his and his family's past in order to find a path in the present to seek a true future for him and Maureen.

It's been ten years since we've gotten a new novel from Wally Lamb and clearly his time was well spent in creating this compelling tale of a man who desperately needs to unload his emotional baggage before he can truly connect with others and help his loved ones to do the same.

Lamb's characters are not always likable folk,but they are amazingly real and vividly portrayed in the turbulent situations they're placed in.

As with his two previous novels(references to a few of those characters find their way into this well rounded story),Lamb gives us a harrowing view of the world that does hold it's share of sorrows but ultimately gives the reader a honestly earned sense of the joys that life can bring.

So far,The Hour I First Believed has not been featured on Oprah,like She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True were,but I have no doubt about this book being able to stand strong on it's own. Even if Oprah does highlight it,fans of Lamb's work will have flocked to it already and give it the time and praise that the book deserves.

For those who have been waiting for a new Wally Lamb and those who haven't started with any of his other books,this novel is sure fire Must Read and a major book of the year. Go forth and claim it now,I beg of you:

1 comment:

Ladytink_534 said...

I read one of Wally Lamb's books a couple of years ago but I don't remember enjoying it very much. This sounds like a great book though and I love the video!