“The Hour I First Believed” by Wally Lamb is a powerful fiction novel, based on true events, that connects the past and the present with amazing clarity.
It’s hard to describe a novel like this; a novel where every moment, every action, and every encounter has an affect on future moments. It’s hard to pick a moment where the story begins but I suppose the most poignant would be Columbine. Our main character, Caelum, and his wife are teachers at Columbine High School. When Caelum must return to his boyhood home for an Aunts funeral, his wife is left to face the day two boys opened fire on the unsuspecting school.
Though she survives, the day profoundly affects her life and Caelums. Struggling to cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, they leave Colorado and return to the home left to Caelum by his Aunt. Despite their efforts to run, that day haunts them and continues to be linked to every event in their lives.
As Caelum begins discovering truths about his past that inevitably affect his future, we are reminded of a particular moment that Caelum experienced. On a plane ride, he talks with a chaos theorist who, in short, informs Caelum of the Chaos Theory; when a butterfly flaps its wings in one country it causes a tidal wave in another. As the story unfolds this theory begins to make sense and we see that even before Columbine a butterfly had fluttered its wings and started Caelums tidal wave.
Though it may seem like several stories in one, it’s amazing, and sad, to see how these stories come together as Caelum tries to accept the life that has been handed him.