I had the opportunity to see Wally Lamb in Cedar Rapids as a part of the Outloud! Author Series sponsored by the Metro Library Network. Mr. Lamb has been one of those mysterious authors floating out in the ether. An author one would think that as an English major in college, I would have read by now, but until this year, I hadn’t. Mr. Lamb talked about all his books during his reading and the one that most caught my attention was The Hour I First Believed. The book chronicles a couple who survived Columbine and links in elements of historical fiction and despite the size of the book (over 700 pages), I decided to give it a shot.
I’ll keep this review short and sweet. I did finish The Hour I First Believed. When I finished it, I thought I might have to go into therapy. The book is depressing with very little redemption for the characters until the last few pages. It’s 700 pages to the bottom of a deep dark pit of adultery, addiction, abuse, bullying and self-loathing. The writing is beautiful. The story is expertly woven showing how the past affects the future. But the lack of genuine happiness without cynicism left me feeling empty and depressed.
I’m glad I gave a Wally Lamb book a chance. There were some interesting observations about the Columbine tragedy that reflect discussions that have happened on social media lately. However, if all of Lamb’s books are about the dark side of the human condition without more hope for redemption, I think I’ll back away slowly and stay in the worlds created by the fantasy books I so often chose to read. The Hour I First Believed, unfortunately, gets a thumbs down.
“Mental illness? Video games? Who knew? And let’s face it, we did sometimes look away from the bullying. Let it go when the athletes cut the cafeteria line. Gave the wise guys in the hallway a dirty look but kept going. You’ve got to choose your battles, I used to tell myself. You’re a teacher, not a security guard. But maybe if…”
The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb