We Are Water by Wally Lamb
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I didn't love We Are Water, I didn't hate We Are Water - in fact I just feel ambivalent about it. Annie Oh, a prominent artist, is days away from marrying gallery owner Viveca. She has recently ended a 27 year marriage to Orion Oh, with whom she has three grown children. Told in a stream of consciousness style by alternating characters, this book mainly takes place over a three day period - however, you throughly learn the back grounds of both Annie, Orion and their children. I did not care for this style of writing and would have enjoyed more dialogue and interaction between the characters. That being said the flow of the novel was good, it didn't lag or bore me, this is a testament to Wally Lamb's ability to craft a story.
Character development was strong and each character had their own voice. I really hated Annie and I hated Orion for having a relationship with her - I never felt the connection between them even as they recalled their courtship. Annie's relationship with Viveca also felt unreal and odd, she had no business being in a relationship with a man or a women until she healed herself. I liked Orion the best, he was not perfect but possibly I liked him because he felt the most real, less cliche then other characters in the book.
My favorite two chapters in We Are Water were the first one by Gualtiero Agnello and Part II Mercy by Ruth Fletcher, these chapters are where Lamb shined with gave us the story telling we have come to love in She's Come Undone and I Know this Much is True, I would enjoy a whole novel of Josephus Jones his murder.
Part IV A Wedding was my least favorite part of the book. Kent Kelly was a fascinating and memorable character, one who was essential to Annie's story -but the way in which he was introduced into the story line felt forced and rushed, too convenient. I think Lamb needed a way to create a climax, action and reveal Annie's secrets but it all was a bit soapy and overly dramatic. As much as I disliked Annie I hated that he ruined her wedding, Kelly's exit from the novel and the secrets that created was also a bit too soapy.
And now what I hated about We Are Water - Lamb's constant attempt to cram popular culture and current events down our throats, this novel felt to much like a political statement on everything and ultimately this distracted from the overall story. Lamb covered every trendy news topic from the past decade, 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palin, Fort Hood shooting, Lindsey Lohan, Lady Gaga, health care, gay rights, PTSD, Bush, Obama, Evangelical Christians, conservatives, Clinton, etc. It was exhausting and as I went through each characters chapters, I found my self thinking, do people really think like this. Lamb's ability to tie in current events and popular culture into his novels was part of what I loved about his first two, but this just felt to forced to crammed down your throat. Maybe because these stories are still apart of our news coverage or are just to recent - I really didn't like these references through. Maybe some day this novel will be a classic novel representing American life at the start of the 21st century but for now it felt to fresh.
A day out from completing Lamb's latest novel my feelings remain mixed - thus my three star rating. I liked the stories of each family member, I liked most the people and Lamb is still a master story teller, but this novel fell short of his first two and left something to be desired. This is not a novel that will stick with me but ultimately one I enjoyed reading and would recommend to fans of Wally Lamb.
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