Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

The Hour I First BelievedTitle: The Hour I First Believed
Author: Wally Lamb
Pages: 740
Published: November 2008 by Harper
ISBN: 9780060393496
Source: Library

Description: When forty-seven-year-old high school teacher Caelum Quirk and his younger wife, Maureen, a school nurse, move to Littleton, Colorado, they both get jobs at Columbine High School. In April 1999, Caelum returns home to Three Rivers, Connecticut, to be with his aunt who has just had a stroke. But Maureen finds herself in the school library at Columbine, cowering in a cabinet and expecting to be killed, as two vengeful students go on a carefully premeditated, murderous rampage. Miraculously she survives, but at a cost: she is unable to recover from the trauma. Caelum and Maureen flee Colorado and return to an illusion of safety at the Quirk family farm in Three Rivers. But the effects of chaos are not so easily put right, and further tragedy ensues. While Maureen fights to regain her sanity, Caelum discovers a cache of old diaries, letters, and newspaper clippings in an upstairs bedroom of his family's house. The colorful and intriguing story they recount spans five generations of Quirk family ancestors, from the Civil War era to Caelum's own troubled childhood. Piece by piece, Caelum reconstructs the lives of the women and men whose legacy he bears. Unimaginable secrets emerge; long-buried fear, anger, guilt, and grief rise to the surface. As Caelum grapples with unexpected and confounding revelations from the past, he also struggles to fashion a future out of the ashes of tragedy. His personal quest for meaning and faith becomes a mythic journey that is at the same time quintessentially contemporary—and American.

I Give This ...
This is a hard review to write because it is difficult to encompass the full impact of this story.  When I first read the blurb and added it to my to read list, I was just thinking of a fictional story about the aftermath of Columbine.  When I finally picked it up, those 740 pages almost made me put it back on the library shelf.  I'm glad I didn't.

The story of the massacre at Columbine is so woven into the story that it's presence can be felt from page one until the book is done.  I liked how the author made fictional characters such an intricate part of what happened that day.  It also helped me put faces and stories to what transpired that day to those who actually live through it.  The problems Maureen faces are very real.  Her everyday battles just to regain control of her life were heartbreaking.  Especially when you think she's making significant progress only to take huge step backwards.  I did dislike how the mother of the boy who died seemed to trivialized what had happened to Maureen.  The statements she made seemed very harsh and uncaring.  But, I'm sure many of us have forgotten about the true horrors that happened that day, while I'm sure there are many who still deal with it everyday.

I have to admit that I wasn't as captured by Caelum's story.  I was more interested when he was trying to help Maureen heal or anything that happened connecting to Columbine.  I was particularly drawn to his classroom and what transpired there.   I did like his history and how he came about discovery the truth of who he really was.  But, maybe it's because for quite awhile I wasn't sure I liked Caelum and it caused me to distance myself from his story.  

Overall, a wonderful book.  There are so many details woven into one another that you can't help but feel really connected to these characters and their lives. I was saddened at the ending because I had truly come to love these characters and their struggles to survive.

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