The Hour I First Believed: Book summary and reviews of The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

The Hour I First Believed

By Wally Lamb

The Hour I First Believed
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  • Published in USA  Nov 2008,
    752 pages.

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Book Summary

When forty-seven-year-old high school teacher Caelum Quirk and his younger wife, Maureen, a school nurse, move to Littleton, Colorado, they both get jobs at Columbine High School. In April 1999, Caelum returns home to Three Rivers, Connecticut, to be with his aunt who has just had a stroke. But Maureen finds herself in the school library at Columbine, cowering in a cabinet and expecting to be killed, as two vengeful students go on a carefully premeditated, murderous rampage. Miraculously she survives, but at a cost: she is unable to recover from the trauma. Caelum and Maureen flee Colorado and return to an illusion of safety at the Quirk family farm in Three Rivers. But the effects of chaos are not so easily put right, and further tragedy ensues.

While Maureen fights to regain her sanity, Caelum discovers a cache of old diaries, letters, and newspaper clippings in an upstairs bedroom of his family's house. The colorful and intriguing story they recount spans five generations of Quirk family ancestors, from the Civil War era to Caelum's own troubled childhood. Piece by piece, Caelum reconstructs the lives of the women and men whose legacy he bears. Unimaginable secrets emerge; long-buried fear, anger, guilt, and grief rise to the surface.

As Caelum grapples with unexpected and confounding revelations from the past, he also struggles to fashion a future out of the ashes of tragedy. His personal quest for meaning and faith becomes a mythic journey that is at the same time quintessentially contemporary—and American.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Oprah fave Wally Lamb, best known for She's Come Undone, has delivered a tour de force. The Hour I First Believed is his best yet. Rated A." - Entertainment Weekly.

" Reading Wally Lamb's new novel, his first in 10 years, is akin to putting on flannel pajamas during the first cold snap of the season. Nothing fancy here. But what a comfort to get lost in Lamb's characters." - The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

"Lamb is exceptional in his exploration of the direct and indirect impacts of survivor guilt. And he makes it clear that, no matter how much the hearts of the community went out to those who lost loved ones and to those scarred by the killers, we still weren't capable of walking in their shoes." - The Denver Post.

".... the beauty of The Hour I First Believed, a soaring novel as amazingly graceful as the classic hymn that provides the title, is that Lamb never loses sight of the spark of human resilience. Faced with tragedy, we stagger on. Or at least we try to, and Lamb's dexterity at reflecting this wonder is the lifeblood of his book." - The Miami Herald.

"But although the book is the long, luxurious and enjoyable read that Lamb fans have come to love, "The Hour I First Believed" ultimately fails to tie these events together into a coherent statement on the contemporary American experience. Instead, Lamb has crafted another affecting, engrossing tome about complicated, interesting characters... " - Minneapolis Star Tribune.

"A novel of this length, filled with one troubled soul after another, could take an eternity to get through. And there are times when Lamb's tale could have benefited from a more ruthless editor.

"But to use an age-old cliché, it's a page-turner — at times a depressing page-turner, but a page-turner nonetheless. Lamb remains a storyteller at the top of his game. For some reason, you care about these people." - USA Today.

"A great story is buried in Wally Lamb's avalanche of a novel, The Hour I First Believed, but only the most determined readers will manage to dig it out ... All so earnest and far, far too much." - The Washington Post.

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Jules Shriver
Needed Editing - Hour I First Believed
I have read Wally Lamb's books and, yes, they tend to be lengthy. Although, overall, I enjoyed this book - it needed additional editing understatement. In frustration, I skipped about eighty pages in the middle and, like a stale soap opera, easily picked up the threads of the story. I am a compulsive reader....but, sincerely wish the author would find a more responsible editor. So, yes, good book - but, it could have been much better. I loved This Much is True.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Rhonda
Wally nails it again...!
Mr. Lamb won my heart when he wrote I Know This Much is True. He did it again with The Hour I First Believed. This book was an odyssey - for me as the reader, for Caelum, and I daresay, for the author as well.... Having woven this tale over 9 years, and throughout the unfolding of some of the most horrific events in American history, he was able to portray some of the most tragic ironies in life - as well as the power of redemption in spite of; and possibly as a result of everything that went before.

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Author Information

Wally Lamb Author Biography

Wally Lamb is the author of the New York Times and national bestseller The Hour I First Believed, as well as the novels She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, both #1 New York Times bestsellers and Oprah's Book Club selections. His first novel She's Come Undone received rave reviews when it was published in 1992. The book was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Awards' Art Seidenbaum Prize for First Fiction and was named as one of the most notable books of the year by numerous publications, including The New York Times Book Review and People magazine. We Are Water will be published in October 2013.

A graduate of the Vermont College MFA writing program, Lamb is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Connecticut's English ...

... Full Biography

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