Saturday, November 23, 2013

We Are Water: Book Review

Wally Lamb's I Know This Much is True is one of the best books I've ever read. And, besides, I love the title.  There are things we just know are true. No indecision. We just know they are facts even if they cannot be proven.

His book, She's Come Undone, is also excellent.  How do we undo our undoing? Can we undo our undoing?  His newest novel, We Are Water is similar in this way.  Can we overcome events that have or could undo us?

I don't think We are Water is as good as either of the other two books I've mentioned, but it is well written and, for better or worse, very engaging.  The problem with being engaged by a  book like this is that there is so much sadness that one might prefer not to have to deal with the pain and, perhaps, see the relationship between the characters lives and one's own.  When I get into a book like I got into this one, it is as if I'm hanging around in the same place as the characters so whatever is going on in the fiction seeps into me and my reality--and not just while I am reading.  Fortunately, I've not experienced what the characters in this book have, but I think the book could be difficult for those who have.

You have real tsuris here. There is a pedophile; a man whose father never acknowledges him; a woman whose mother died in a storm as did a younger sister, and whose father becomes a drunk because of the losses.  You have an innocent person who is killed and a not so innocent person who is killed.  A man's spouse leaves him for another woman and subsequently he and a daughter are attacked (separately).  So, a lot occurs that is not going to make you start doing a happy dance.

That written, the book keeps you turning the pages and has stayed with me for the day since I finished it.  The chapters are written from the perspective of different characters. The author is very good at changing voices and capturing the thinking of these diverse narrators.   The author's ability to get into the heads of a pedophile, the spouse of a racist, the victim of sexual abuse--really special.

I'm not quite convinced that the author knew where this story was going when he got going. I think he knew he was going to write about a storm and loss, but some of the peripheral characters don't really seem to evolve in the way you would expect.  Viveca, for example, the woman for whom the spouse left, is portrayed negatively in the first half of the book, but it seems as if the author decides that she should be characterized more positively by the time he is done.  Can't quite buy Orion's (male main character) and his ex-wife's (Annie's) evolving relationship.  And I wonder if he thought it would end up that way when he began.  There is an allusion to art theft that sort of gets dropped about half way through the book.

Still, withal, I would recommend the book. However, I would not recommend it if you are in a sad place to start with. If the love of your life has left you I'd pass on this for a spell.  And worse, if you have been the subject of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse--I would definitely pass on this, until you are feeling as if you can get immersed in a book where the central characters have themselves been abused.

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