Saturday, December 27, 2008

"The Hour I First Believed" Wally Lamb

Amid the planning and cooking and shopping of the Christmas season I picked up my copy of "The Hour I First Believed" and finally started to read it. I had been waiting to read it until I had finished reading some books that I had out from the library, but Fabulous Fall Reading is wrapping up, and since it is one of the challenge books I thought that I would read it before the contest ended.

Wow. That pretty much sums it up. Wow. This is one of the deepest, most thought-provoking books that I have read this year. Scratch that; it IS the most thought-provoking book that I've read this year. I highly doubt that I will be able to do it justice with this review, but I'll take a stab at it.

Caelum Quirk and his third wife, Maureen, are both living in Littleton, Colorado and working at Columbine School in 1999. Caelum teaches English and Maureen is one of the school nurses. In April, Caelum's beloved Aunt Lolly has a stroke and he has to head back to Three Rivers, Connecticut to be with her in the hospital. Aunt Lolly dies and Maureen makes arrangements to come up to Three Rivers for the funeral, however her flight isn't until late evening and she decides to go into work on the fateful day of the Columbine shootings. She finds herself in the library when Dylan and Erik enter and randomly begin to shoot the students hiding under the tables. Maureen herself escapes being shot by hiding in a cupboard in the library's staff room, but she hardly escape unscathed. Instead she develops severe post-traumatic stress disorder and she and Caelum leave Colorado and move to Three Rivers to begin her healing.

What follows is the account of how post-traumatic stress disorder can change your entire life, not to mention the lives of those around you. This book also touches on other important issues: Hurricane Katrina, the condition of women's prisons, family history and how it can affect a person decades later.

Lamb's words are deliberatly and carefully chosen, and it shows. Take for example how he chooses to conclude this book:

(From Page 723)
Feeling both at once- the cool, silent pull of the dead-but-living past and the rigorous kick of the future: that was when I finally understood what had until then eluded me.
Yes, that was when and how it happened.
That was the hour I first believed.

If you only read one book in 2009, read this one. Lamb's powerful novel will stay in your thoughts long after you read the final pages. You can find out more about this book here.

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