Reading: ‘The Hour I First Believed’


Fact: Wally Lamb writes sad books.

If you’re looking for a story about bubbly women or confident men who’ve got their lives figured out, move along. This isn’t the story for you.

In The Hour I First Believed Lamb has once again woven a tale about the human spirit overcoming hardships you wouldn’t want to bestow upon your worst enemy. And as much as I wanted to be captivated with this novel the same way I fell in love with She’s Come Undone when I read it over 15 years ago, I wasn’t. It saddens me to state this, but I believe I’ve outgrown Lamb’s view of the world. 

After reading all three of his books, (I Know This Much Is True was entertaining, but its story quite forgettable) I think I’m ready to move on from his heavy lives filled with sadness, bad luck, and regret. 

On the plus side, Lamb has not lost his touch of having the characters he puts on paper possess him. They are complex and rich with voice and personality.

But where his characters come across beautifully, his story in The Hour I First Believed is simply trying to be too many things at once: a failed marriage, Columbine, Hurricane Katrina, drug addiction, prison, infidelity, manslaughter, prison, drunk driving, abortion, racism, bullying, alcoholism, sexual abuse and feline influenza. Kidding about the last one, just wanted to check if you were still with me or if I lost you under all that baggage. 

If you’ve never read a Wally Lamb book, I suggest starting with his first novel and working your way down. But bear in mind, you need to be in the mood for a story where the protagonist takes a heavy beating.