Thursday, December 26, 2013

We Are Water by Wally Lamb

Let's add one more book to the list of 2013 good reads.  Wally Lamb's latest book is another powerhouse of story-telling.  I loved his book This Much I Know, but had not read another one of his in years.  I always remembered the characterization and ability to get inside a dysfunctional family, letting us see all the nuances yet not hating the family members.  He has done it once again with We Are Water (and if you're an audible.com member, it is read by numerous different narrators - like a good movie playing inside your head!).  It begins with a strange story of a long-dead African-American painter and his mysterious death.  The main character, Annie Oh, is also an artist, but not the "paint-beautiful-pictures" type of artist.  She creates angry shadow boxes that reflect the tortured soul within this middle-aged woman.  Lamb draws out the history of the characters through a wedding between Annie and her female agent, reliving Annie's youth and marriage to Orien Oh, as we hear the story from both husband and wife.  Occasionally the children's voices chime in as well, and much more so in Part II, as Annie's son and her long-lost cousin gives us more background history to Annie's life.  Some parts are heard to read, as there's raw sex, pedophilia, and a horrific flood scene, but Lamb is the master of the story - he fills in every nook and cranny of Annie's life, so that we see who she truly is, and more importantly, how she became the tortured artist of New York fame.  And in a surprising manner, he even draws the threads together of the long-dead black artist.   I listened to this book obsessively, every moment I got, including making Christmas cookies and cleaning house.  It's a fabulous, rich, well-told story of a dysfunctional family, that quite frankly I saw as pretty normal these days - it's just real.  I strongly recommend this book - it would be a wonderful book club read as so many intriguing and controversial topics are tackled.

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