Review: The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

Title: The Hour I First Believed
Author: Wally Lamb
Pages: 752 pages
Publisher: Harper (November 11, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0060393491

Caelum Quirk narrates Wally Lamb’s newest book, The Hour I First Believed. Caelum is a high school English teacher struggling to maintain his third marriage. Caelum and his wife, Maureen moved to Littleton, Colorado to start a new life after Maureen’s infidelity. Both take jobs at Columbine High School; Caelum as an English teacher and Maureen as the school nurse. Caelum goes to be with his aunt after she suffers a stroke in Three Rivers, Connecticut. Caelum’s aunt dies shortly after he arrives. Back in Colorado Maureen finds herself in the middle of the rampage created by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold within the Columbine School Shooting.

Maureen is in the school library with a student, Violet, when the shooting begins. Maureen hides in a library cabinet, listening to students being taunted and shot. Maureen struggles greatly with PTSD after this tragedy. Her life spirals out of control. Caelum and Maureen struggle to put their life back together after the shootings.

They decide to move back to the family farm in Three Rivers, Connecticut to recover from their ordeal in Colorado. Maureen struggles to regain her life, but experiences life altering tragedy. Caelum discovers in the farm house a family history archive of letters, diaries and news clippings. He begins to piece together the life of his ancestors and family secrets emerge. Caelum struggles with unexpected discoveries and continues with his quest for meaning and direction in his life.

My Review: I am once again blown away by the storytelling on Wally Lamb. He introduces us to a wide range of rich characters. What I like about the characters, especially Caelum, is they are just average people, trying to make sense of a world that is wrought with tragedy. The description of the shootings in Columbine are heart wrenching. I listened to this book and found the drama of the shootings to be very intense and had a profound effect on me.

Generally books with a lot of side stories are not enjoyable to me. The Hour I First Believed is the exception. The Columbine shooting falls into the background of the story as life and tragedy continues to plague Caelum. It almost felt like a new story once Caelum starting his discovery and research on his family history. But throughout the book the struggle to maintain the relationship between Caelum and Maureen is ever present.

To me the theme throughout the book is that life isn’t easy and neat. Terrible things happen to people for unknown reasons. This story though filled with tragedy portrays the strength of the characters to overcome the tragedies of their lives and find hope and purpose for in their lives. Don’t we all have tragedy in our lives at some level? It is all about our journey through the tragedy and who we are on the other side. One can only hope we continue to find hope in life after it is all said and done. It was inspiring to follow Caelum, Maureen and Violet in their journey to hope after an imaginable amount of tragedy.

4.5/5 – Highly Recommended

Happy Reading!






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