“Although my characters’ lives don’t much resemble my own, what we share is that we are imperfect people seeking to become better people. I write fiction so that I can move beyond the boundaries and limitations of my own experiences and better understand the lives of others. That’s also why I teach. As challenging as it sometimes is to balance the two vocations, writing and teaching are, for me, intertwined.” -Wally Lamb
Hey, hey, hey! It’s Thursday! That means it’s time for this week’s Who’s Who! This is a weekly post where I discuss a favorite author of mine and their various works. Today we are taking a look at Wally Lamb!
Mr. Lamb grew up in Connecticut, which is the setting for most of his novels. He obtained his Bachelors and Masters in teaching at the University of Connecticut and has a Master of Fine Arts in Writing Degree from Vermont College. For a time, Mr. Lamb also directed the creative writing program at the University of Connecticut, where he was also an Associate Professor. In addition to his fiction novels, Mr. Lamb also edited two nonfiction anthologies of autobiographical essays which he collected while teaching a writing workshop at Connecticut’s York Correctional Institute, a maximum-security prison for women.
I first discovered the creative genius that is Wally Lamb as a senior in high school. I was in the advanced English course and we were required to read one novel for every grading period and I had more or less already read everything in the library. So it was by happy accident that I just happened to stumble into the “L” section one day and grab the first book on the shelf that didn’t look familiar to me. It was thick (somewhere around 900 pages to be exact) and worn– exactly my kind of book. Within minutes I was hooked on I Know This Much Is True. It’s the story of twins, Dominick and Thomas Birdsey, and their battles with mental illness, grief, identity crises, and more. Dominick, who suffers from PTSD triggered by traumas experienced in his adulthood, is the main character and is the reluctant keeper of Thomas, a paranoid schizophrenic. As someone who is clinically bipolar, I actually really appreciate the discussion of mental illness. I think it’s important while reading this book to keep in mind that mental illness does not look the same on everyone. Everyone experiences it differently and that’s okay.
After I finished I Know This Much Is True, I went back to the “L” section and read everything else by Wally Lamb that I could get my hands on. Next it was She’s Come Undone, which deals with the life of Dolores Price. The novel begins with Dolores’s childhood, her abuse, and how it impacted the rest of her life. What I find so interesting about this story is that Wally Lamb writes from the point of view of a woman so well. I really found myself relating to problems Dolores faces, such as body image issues and unrequited love. It never felt awkward to me knowing that I was reading about women problems as written by a man. She’s Come Undone is a must read for all the young women out there.
The only other book I have read by Mr. Lamb is The Hour I First Believed. I know a lot of Wally Lamb fans weren’t crazy about this one, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story beings in the late 90s and follows Caelum and Maureen Quirk who move to Colorado in an attempt to save their marriage after Maureen is caught cheating. They both become teachers are Columbine High School and think that their lives are finally beginning to turn around. You can probably guess what happens next. I won’t spoil it for you, but I honestly would encourage you to give it a try if you like his other works.
I have a copy of We Are Water but have not yet had the chance to read it. This is the next thing on my “To Do” list. Also, fun fact, She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True were both featured in Oprah’s Book Club!
Here’s a list of his work and links to buy them!
- She’s Come Undone
- I Know This Much Is True
- Couldn’t Keep It To Myself: Testimonies from Our Imprisoned Sisters
- I’ll Fly Away: Further Testimonies from the Women of York Prison
- The Hour I First Believed
- Wishin’ and Hopin’: A Christmas Story
- We Are Water
- I’ll Take You There — Coming this November!