we are water by w lamb


I am a huge fan of Wally Lamb; regretfully We Are Water was a disappointment.

I wrote the sentence above last week and ditched my computer altogether until today.  It’s hard to write about something that doesn’t sway my opinion to a specific side.  I think the worst kind of criticism is having no criticism at all.  Lamb’s novel isn’t terrible but it isn’t terrific.  It’s sort of stuck in gray.  Neither black nor white.

We Are Water is about making and breaking of marriage, family, and love.  Annie Oh divorces her husband, Orion, of 27 years to marry her wealthy art-dealer girlfriend Viveca.  Before the lesbian nuptial takes place however, Annie’s three adult kids and Orion have to cope with the shock and sorrow.  The novel is a chapter-by-chapter compilation of soliloquies by each of the  distraught family member, and some people from the past & present.

In Lamb’s previous books (including She’s Come Undone, I Know This Much Is True, The Hour I First Believed) he is critically acclaimed for his ability to write in the character’s truest form; narrating as a woman, teenage boys, and distressed victims.  That’s the narrative artistry attempted in Water but it lacks the usual tactfulness and finesse — that for a moment Lamb as a male author is blissfully forgotten.   The absolutely mundane details of Annie’s soliloquy has a counter effect to all the grave issues the story brings forth: pedophilia, alcoholism, racism, gay marriage, domestic violence, class conflict, murder, and even a natural disaster.  It’s almost too much to keep the sympathetic feelings sticky throughout the book.

The concept is appropriately modern as countries around the world are only now beginning to see the importance of lawful gay marriage.  But the penmanship lacks the jolt of excitement and passion.  The story was written to fit the title and not the other way.  I wouldn’t recommend it highly but for devoted Lamb readers I would only recommend so you can keep the cycle going.

dee’s recommendation: 2.5/5