The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

8.5 /10 American tragedies

In the afterword of Wally Lamb’s latest book, he laments about how the novel was nearly never written. Boy, can I believe that. Lamb spans years of American societal changing events from the Columbine shooting, to September 11, to War on Terror and Hurricane Katrina. Not exactly easy subject matter.

Lamb plays with narration throughout the novel switching from high school English teacher, Caelum Quirk’s, adult voice to his boyhood reminiscent narrative, to epistolary narrative via his great-great-great grandmother (grandmother? aunt? wooh. next time I won’t wait so long before I write the review…!).

The last novel I read by Lamb was She’s Come Undone… and I was oh, 12 or 14 and pretty naive (understatement of the year). I remember not particularly enjoying the darkness of the novel, and thinking that the main character was incredibly messed up (perhaps I added a “dude” to that, at the time) Being older now, and hopefully wiser, Lamb continues along the same themes of delving in the dark-er places of social history and is able to convey all the things we think about the horrible things going on in the world in a relatable and poignant way.

Often, novels based in present day touch on only a moment or year or so in time. I really enjoyed how Lamb’s characters were able to use current events as an emotional touchstone which brought the characters to a whole other believable level. Brilliant, Lamb!

Now go get it out of your local library!