Sunday, June 7, 2009

Whatever Doesn't Kill Me...

I spent the last week or so fighting my way through the rest of Wally Lamb's latest book "The Hour I First Believed." It wasn't worth the fight.

First of all, the book is too long, it spans too long and detailed a period of time. I didn't need to read the entire dissertation about Lizzy Popper. It was completely unnecessary. But I'm the type of person who won't skip over anything because I'm afraid I'll miss something. I wouldn't have missed anything. Shortly following each excerpt of the dissertation was a spark-note version, through conversation or thought, of t
he passage which precedes it. I would like to know who said, "Yeah, Wally. That's a great idea. Include the entire dissertation of this woman's life. It's enthralling!"

The plot is so tightly wound together with extensive character connections, it makes my head hurt. And each "plot twist", once into the first 400 pages or so, you can see coming. So much so that it makes me nauseous. Long ago Caelum was told a story about how an African tribe believes the praying mantis is God. Then Caelum finds one on his front stoop. Maureen gets imprisoned in Caelum's family established jail
. The brother of the boy Maureen accidentally killed goes to work for one of Caelum's tenants on the same property his mother is fighting to win in the civil suit.  And these are only the big connections, there are too many other too irritating to mention. It's too much.

These elaborate connections make me feel like I'm being hit in the head, repeatedly, with the unnecessarily large novel. And it's Wally Lamb bashing the enormous book into my face yelling, "THIS IS IRONY! THIS IS IRONY!''

And is it necessary to include as many crises in
 the country's recent history as possible? Columbine, Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, the Iraq War (and I know I've missed more than a few). Why? Just to tug some heartstrings? Make the novel more appealing somehow? It boarders on bathos.

Having Maureen die from an undetected and unexpected brain aneurysm, was a cop-out. Lamb took the easy way out. Maureen's character had served its purpose and run its course, and he probably didn't care to extend the story through the entire 5 years of her imprisonment, so, hey! I know! Conveniently kill her off! Perfect! And on to the speedy resolution!

I will say, the ending is beautiful. It didn't resolve anything, but it was beautiful. The final chapter was short, elegantly written, short, and concise. I wish I could say that much of the rest of the novel.

Maybe my expectations were too high for this novel, and so it couldn't help but fall short. Regardless, "The Hour I First Believed" is not worth the struggle.

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