Sunday, December 22, 2013

Book Review: We Are Water by Wally Lamb

Title: We Are Water
Author: Wally Lamb
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Source: Audible
This book would be rated: A strong R for vivid descriptions of child sex abuse, plus language and violence

We Are Water tells the story of the Oh family. Annie Oh is an artist, and in 2009, when most of the action of the novel takes place, she has recently divorced Orion, her husband of 27 years, in order to marry Vivica, who owns the gallery that represents her work. Orion has just retired from working as a therapist at a college, and their three children, all in their twenties, are in various stages of relationships, finding themselves, and resenting their parents, mainly Annie, and mostly for sins that can be traced back to her difficult childhood. Lamb tells the story in the voices of all of these characters, plus many more.

I listened to the book as an audiobook, which felt like both the best and worst way to experience it. I loved that the people at Harper Collins decided to use different voices for the audiobook, and that Lamb himself voiced Orion. I felt that the use of different voices really made the characters come alive and highlighted the ways that the stories worked together and contradicted one another. However, one of the characters is an unrepentant pedophile, and it was almost impossible to keep listening when he was telling his part of the story (although important, and ultimately, I'm glad I stuck with it, despite my revulsion). There were some problems with the timeline of the story that niggled at me as I read (for example, Annie's mom was 29 when she died. Annie's brother was a sophomore in high school at the time, and we know that Annie's mom got engaged at her senior prom and did not have her son until she was married-- see it doesn't compute). I was also a little bit disappointed that the entire last section of the book, which takes place in 2012, was told in Orion's voice. I wanted to see some closure from the other characters, not just filtered through Orion. All in all, though, We Are Water is the kind of book I love to read-- it's epic and sprawling and engrossing and a little bit tough. The end is remarkably happy, which I think some readers might think is a little bit out of sync with the rest of the novel, but I'm always a sucker for a happy ending.

Sprawling, epic, great use of voice (audiobook was amazing).
Timeline problems (Annie's mom as 29 when she died but her son was a sophomore in high school, parents got engaged when mom was 18).
Weird that the whole 2012 part of the story is told in Orion's voice

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