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Throwback Review: We Are Water by Wally Lamb

Published October 22nd, 2013? I review books for a living here, folks, and Wally Lamb's latest tome, toppling the scales at a whopping 561 pages (though far from his longest work), took me quite a bit of time to conquer between everything else I have going on. The book has not expired; it's simply better with age. As a true Lamb fan, I know that anything that flows between his brain to his fingertips is worthy of one's undivided time and We Are Water certainly didn't disappoint.

Annie Oh is a woman who discovered her art in an...elevated age. It offers her a sense of purpose and an outlet for her emotions. Known to many as a quiet, meek woman, her art exhibits a surprisingly angry, manic quality that originally shocked family and bowled over critics and fans alike. Art also becomes Annie's escape hatch when, after 27 years together with her psychologist husband Orion, and three children, Annie finds herself running into the arms of her art dealer: a wealthy, sophisticated woman named Viveca.

Leading up to the weekend of Annie and Viveca's wedding in Three Rivers, Connecticut, where gay marriage has recently been legalized, readers are introduced to all of the complex characters of the Oh family, changing narrators along the way. The alternating voices illustrate the mixed reactions to Annie's wedding to Viveca, as well as their own histories, including Annie's tormented past. The chapters from Orion's point of view are especially startling as the hidden secrets of his ex-wife's life are revealed to him, shattering what he thought he knew of his own family. The closer to the wedding we get, the more difficult the secrets are to hear.

The characters in We Are Water are unmistakably Wally Lamb's - flawed, emotional, and real. We want to dislike them but are instead transported into their story, their past and present. No matter how distasteful some of these individuals are, the reader can't help but feel sympathy toward their plight. And like any other Lamb book, themes of secrets, bigamy, incest, abuse, forgiveness, murder, racism, wealth and loss are beautifully woven into the fabric of the story.

With heavy themes and intense emotional scenes, Wally Lamb has a way of drawing his readers into the pages. Anyone who has read his previous work (She's Come Undone; I Know This Much is True; The Hour I First Believed) understands just how deft Wally Lamb writes people - especially women.

We Are Water is an intensely disquieting novel that will leave its reader emotionally spent, and longing for more.