The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
NOT A SUMMER READ
This book took me a bit of time. Not just because it’s seriously long but also — well it’s a punch to the actual gut. It isn’t what i would call a holiday read at all but a trusted reader who I chatted to by the pool recommended it to me (thank you ). If I had to summarise it in three words, I’d call it: fascinating, harrowing and (incredibly) important. And, in many ways, it’s ahead of its time.
The book is the story of a married couple, Caelum and Maureen (Mo). Their marriage hasn’t been easy but after things get back on track, Caelum has to travel back home from Colorado to see his dying aunt. While he is there, his wife will face the unthinkable; she’s trapped in the library at Columbine High School when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris go on a murderous rampage in a day that remains unforgettable over twenty years on.
The author details the experiences of Mo in the wake of such an horrific event. His account of the PTSD she suffers feels ahead of its time (this was first published in 2008 when mental health was much more taboo). What he also does brilliantly is build characters who are so utterly real; they are flawed, like we all are and you will find yourself veering from rooting for them to wanting to shout at them in sheer frustration.
This is, of course, a novel. But it is fiction within a real setting. The author uses the names of all those from Columbine; the victims and the perpetrators and his afterword on why he does so was in itself, fascinating.
Just to reiterate, this is not a holiday read. There are parts that felt a little extensive too, convoluted at times. And, let me stress, it is absolutely not for everyone (it includes actual extracts from Klebold and Harris’s diaries which are very hard to get through).
Thus, in a way, the image above feels wrong; the drink, the watermelon. But the fact was, I picked it up by the pool and once I was in, I couldn’t stop. Lamb is a terrific writer. If you’ve read it, I’d love to know what you think… ~ S
Order your copy here.