From the New York Times bestselling author of The Hour I First Believed and I Know This Much Is True, a disquieting and ultimately uplifting novel about a marriage, a family, and human resilience in the face of tragedy
In middle age, Anna Oh-wife, mother, outsider artist-has shaken her family to its core. After twenty-seven years of marriage and three children, Anna has fallen in love with Vivica, the wealthy, cultured, confident Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her professional success.
Anna and Viveca plan to wed in the Oh family's hometown of Three Rivers in Connecticut, where gay marriage has recently been legalized. But the impending wedding provokes some very mixed reactions and opens a Pandora's Box of toxic secrets-dark and painful truths that have festered below the surface of the Ohs' lives.
We Are Water is an intricate and layered portrait of marriage, family, and the inexorable need for understanding and connection, told in the alternating voices of the Ohs-nonconformist Annie; her ex-husband, Orion, a psychologist; Ariane, the do-gooder daughter, and her twin, Andrew, the rebellious only son; and free-spirited Marissa, the youngest Oh. Set in New England and New York during the first years of the Obama presidency, it is also a portrait of modern America, exploring issues of class, changing social mores, the legacy of racial violence, and the nature of creativity and art.
With humor and breathtaking compassion, Wally Lamb brilliantly captures the essence of human experience in vivid and unforgettable characters struggling to find hope and redemption in the aftermath of trauma and loss. We Are Water is vintage Wally Lamb-a compulsively readable, generous, and uplifting masterpiece that digs deep into the complexities of the human heart to explore the ways in which we search for love and meaning in our lives.
I have never read Wally Lamb, though I have been meaning to: I Know This Much Is True, She's Come Unknown.... so when I was offered We Are Water for review, I thought I might as well start with this one!
This novel has lot of elements I normally stay away from - this is character driven, it is over 500 pages, it doesn't have much plot, it's not fast-paced, the characters went through stream of consciousness... and yet I never thought about abandoning it. I wanted to find out what happened. The author was able to switch between present and the past easily and you got to know the characters from the little tidbits here and there. I definitely enjoyed the writing. So I am glad that I gave this a try!
The story was written from multiple perspective, which I do like. Though I found that all the characters seem to have similar voices. I did find a pet peeves of mine though - two minor characters were named Donald (one of the main character's brother, and her maid's twins), and that there was a Thea and an Althea. And maybe I am from a conservative family... but some of the topics the family members discussed? They'd never happen in my family... though I suppose it is quite subjective and no two families are the same.
I also found the ending satisfying - stopped at a good spot, but not loose end was tied up into a neat bow.
I do have a few quotes I like from this book - though the last one may be a bit of a spoiler - throughout the book, I kept wondering why this book was titled "We Are Water" - and I am glad I did find out why or it'd have been so annoying. So skip the last quote if you don't want to know yet! I posted it here not because I want to post a spoiler, but I just found it meaningful and want to keep it for future reference. And like one of the characters, I do like the sound of water - "rain on the roof, rivers flowing... and then ocean". I used to live by the ocean, and I miss it.
"Put your hand out," I'd tell these students. "Now bring it closer. Now closer still." And when their hands were a half inch fro their noses, I'd ask them to describe what they saw. "It's blurry," they'd say, and I'd suggest that sometimes the closer we got to a situation, the less clear it looked. (p95)
Change what you can, accept what you can't, and be smart enough to know the differences. (p550)
You can look back on the past. Just don't stay stuck there. (p552)
Okay, but what have you gained since then? I ask myself. It's something I used to advise my university patients to do to combat self-pity: replace negative thoughts with positive ones. So okay, what have I gained? (p556)
"We are like water, aren't we? We can be fluid, flexible when we have to be. But strong and dstructive, too."... Like water, we mostly follow the path of least resistance. (p560)
Note - Received a free ARC copy from HarperCollins in exchange for an unbiased review.
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