Reviews for We are Water


Booklist Reviews 2013 December #2
Lamb's much-anticipated new novel explores the secrets of a Connecticut family on the occasion of mother Annie's remarriage to another woman. An artist who has found great success recycling junk into angry visual art, Annie is ambivalent about marrying Viveca, the art dealer responsible for her success. Meanwhile, Annie's ex-husband, Orion, struggles to accept Annie's remarriage and remake himself after messing up his career as a psychologist. And their kids are not exactly all right either. But, in classic Lamb fashion, this is less a story about the drama of the present or any of the various hot-button issues Lamb invokes (gay marriage, Christian Fundamentalism, Obama's presidency) than it is a lesson about how the traumas of the past play themselves out in the present, and how moral courage and religious faith are the key to overcoming that which haunts us. Here the old wounds are deep indeed--abandonment, addiction, decades-old racial conflict, and lots of child abuse--and Lamb does not hold back describing them in all their messiness. As he did in his Oprah-endorsed blockbusters She's Come Undone (1992) and I Know This Much Is True (1998), Lamb avoids irony and tends to spoon-feed his readers rather than let them find their own meanings in the text. But few authors are as compassionate toward their characters or as stirring in their redemption narratives. Librarians should expect heavy demand. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The publisher's publicity campaign will match in intensity the public library response to a new book by a library favorite. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2013 November
That thing we all share

Whatever form it takes, water is rarely still. It flows in a river, waves with the wind and ripples when its surface is broken. In his latest novel, We Are Water, best-selling author and masterful storyteller Wally Lamb (She’s Come Undone, I Know This Much Is True) uses the Oh family to illustrate how ever-changing relationships can be.

After 27 years of a mostly successful marriage, artist Annie Oh has left her husband, Dr. Orion Oh, for her female art dealer, Viveca. As the women’s wedding draws near, Orion and Annie’s three children are left to confront their feelings about their mother’s change of heart as well as their complicated familial history.

Andrew’s career has carried him from Connecticut to Fort Hood, Texas, where he found Jesus and a conservative Christian fiancée. His twin, Ariane, has been unlucky in love but is content in her work, running a San Francisco soup kitchen. Younger sister Marissa is pursuing work as a New York City actress, juggling bartending work with casting calls as she strives for success. Their father is adrift, trying to figure out his next move after a scandal causes him to resign from his university psychologist job.

When the Ohs’ children return home for their mother’s wedding, longtime hurts and frustrations come to a head. Orion speaks for them all when he reflects on the parallels between water and people: “We are like water, aren’t we? We can be fluid, flexible when we have to be. But strong and destructive, too.” And that’s the message Lamb leaves the reader with in the gentle ebb and flow of this book: Relationships may bend, but they don’[Mon Sep 1 08:15:12 2014] enhancedContent.pl: Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\enhancedContent.pl line 249. t have to break.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2014 August
New paperback releases for reading groups

HER HIDDEN PAST
Sarah Cornwell’s debut novel, What I Had Before I Had You, is a moving and authentic depiction of a family struggling to reconcile with the past. Olivia, mother of two, returns to Ocean Vista, her hometown on the Jersey Shore, after a 20-year absence. The visit brings back difficult memories of her childhood, which was spent in the care of her loving but eccentric mother, Myla, a professional psychic. Both Olivia and her 9-year-old son, Daniel, suffer from bipolar disorder. When Daniel disappears during the visit home, Olivia tries to find him, embarking on a search that forces her to face up to a family history that’s loaded with secrets. Myla, capricious, beautiful and forever mourning the stillborn twins she lost in 1971, lies at the heart of Olivia’s quest for redemption. Skillfully weaving the story of Olivia’s past together with her search for Daniel, Cornwell has crafted a luminous narrative that proves she’s a writer to watch.

MODERN FAMILY
Best-selling author and Oprah favorite Wally Lamb offers up a poignant, timely family story with his new novel, We Are Water. With 27 years of marriage behind her, artist Anna Oh has an ex-husband, three children and a new love interest: art dealer Viveca, the glamorous Manhattanite who launched her career. Plans for a wedding are soon brewing, but Anna’s family has a few misgivings about her decision to tie the knot again. The novel is narrated, in turns, by members of the Oh family, including Anna’s psychologist ex-husband, Orion, and their kids, Ariane, Andrew and Marissa, all of whom have lives of their own—and scarred psyches. As Anna’s wedding nears, unpleasant episodes from the family’s past come to light, causing the Oh clan to take stock of mistakes and heartaches. Lamb writes about delicate issues like child abuse and addiction with the openness and compassion his many fans have come to expect. His moving portrayal of a contemporary family drama is sure to resonate with readers.

TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
Winner of the 2013 National Book Award for fiction, The Good Lord Bird by James McBride is an inspired and slightly transgressive take on the story of abolitionist John Brown. The novel is narrated by 12-year-old Henry Shackleford, a Kansas slave Brown mistakes for a girl. When Brown shoots Henry’s owner, the boy joins his band of abolitionists and lives as a female. Brown and his crew cross the country trying to marshal support for their cause, and Henry tags along, bearing witness to meetings with Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, as well as the raid on Harpers Ferry. McBride, author of the acclaimed memoir The Color of Water as well as two previous novels, shows a remarkable flair for making events come alive and never shies away from the comic possibilities of the boy’s situation. A wonderfully imaginative retelling of history that’s been compared to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, McBride’s latest is a page-turner thanks to Henry’s unique voice and remarkable coming-of-age experiences.

 

This article was originally published in the August 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 October #2
A searching novel of contemporary manners--and long-buried secrets--by seasoned storyteller Lamb (Wishin' and Hopin', 2009, etc.). Lamb's latest opens almost as a police procedural, its point of view that of one Gualtiero Agnello (hint: agnello means "lamb" in Italian), rife with racial and sexual overtones. Fast-forward five decades, and it's a different world, the POV now taken by an artist named Annie Oh, sharp-eyed and smart, who is attending to details of her upcoming nuptials to her partner and agent, Viveca, who has chosen a wedding dress with a name, Gaia. Notes Annie, reflecting on the Greek myth underlying the name, "[c]haos, incest, monsters, warring siblings: it's a strange name for a wedding dress." That thought foreshadows much of Lamb's theme, which inhabits the still-waters-run-deep school of narrative: Annie has attained some renown, is apparently adjusted to divorce from her husband, a clinical psychologist named Orion (Greek myth again, though he's Chinese) Oh, and is apparently bound for a later life of happiness. Ah, but then reality intrudes in various forms, from Viveca's request for a prenup to the long-suppressed past, in which natural disaster meets familial dysfunction. The story is elaborate and unpredictable, and the use of multiple narrators is wise, considering that there are a few Rashomon moments in this leisurely unfolding narrative. The characters are at once sympathetic and flawed and mostly, by the end, self-aware (Orion on Annie: "I'd just let her float away. But at the time, I couldn't admit that. It was easier to think of myself as Viveca's victim than to cop to my own culpability"). We all know that life is tangled and messy. Still, in reminding readers of this fact, Lamb turns in a satisfyingly grown-up story, elegantly written. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 June #1

You can't get much more affecting than two-time Oprah pick author Lamb, and here he nicely nails the zeitgeist with the story of outsider artist Anna Oh, long married and the mother of three, who leaves her husband to marry her polished Manhattan art dealer, Vivica. With the approach of the wedding--set in Connecticut, where same-sex marriage has just been legalized--painful family issues boil to the surface. Anna, former husband Orion, and the children tell the story in alternating voices. With a one-day laydown on October 29, a 500,000-copy first printing, and a ten-city tour to Boston, Connecticut, Dallas, Denver, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Washington, DC.

[Page 78]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 September #2

We are water: "fluid, flexible when we have to be. But strong and destructive, too." That's evident in this emotionally involving new novel from the author of She's Come Undone. At its heart is the Oh family: Orion, half Chinese and half Italian, a psychologist who never knew his father and has taken early retirement from his university rather than face trumped-up charges of sexual harassment; his wife, Annie, a shy, successful creator of angry installation art who survived foster care and carries a dark secret; and their three children: willful aspiring actress Marissa and the twins, goodhearted Ariane and born-again rebel Andrew. As the novel opens, Annie has thrown everyone into turmoil by leaving Orion for her chic, sophisticated art dealer, Viveca, and even as the new couple plan a wedding in the Ohs' hometown, Three Rivers, CT, past and present hurts unfold in chapters told deftly from alternate viewpoints. Annie's self-doubts are particularly affecting, as is the satisfyingly predictable unfolding of her secret; Orion gracefully comes to terms with his limitations and his future. Meanwhile, Viveca's interest in a painting found on the Oh property links to the story of a black artist that intriguingly frames the novel. VERDICT Clear and sweetly flowing; highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 5/13/13.]--Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

[Page 67]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 November #1

Set mostly in Connecticut, Lamb's (She's Come Undone) fifth novel takes on race, class, sexuality, and art, sometimes clumsily, yet the complex plot is captivating. On the brink of her second marriage, artist Annie Oh fis plagued by "lifestyle guilt." After a tormented childhood--a flood that killed her mother and sister; a stint in foster care; abuse at the hands of her cousin--Annie leaves her husband, Dr. Orion Oh, for a woman: art dealer Viveca Christophoulos-Shabbas. The Ohs' three children--all grown--accept their mother's decision, though Andrew is more reluctant than his sisters, Marissa and Ariane. Lamb seems eager to include many permutations of American identity: Orion is Chinese-Italian, Viveca is Greek-and previously married to an Arab man to boot. A section narrated by a Ku Klux Klansman's widow is unconvincing, torn between racism and apology. However Lamb excels at delivering unexpected blows to his characters, ratcheting up the suspense to the final page. Agent: Kassie Evashevski,United Talent Agency. (Nov.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

Set mostly in Connecticut, Lamb's (She's Come Undone) fifth novel takes on race, class, sexuality, and art, sometimes clumsily, yet the complex plot is captivating. On the brink of her second marriage, artist Annie Oh fis plagued by "lifestyle guilt." After a tormented childhood--a flood that killed her mother and sister; a stint in foster care; abuse at the hands of her cousin--Annie leaves her husband, Dr. Orion Oh, for a woman: art dealer Viveca Christophoulos-Shabbas. The Ohs' three children--all grown--accept their mother's decision, though Andrew is more reluctant than his sisters, Marissa and Ariane. Lamb seems eager to include many permutations of American identity: Orion is Chinese-Italian, Viveca is Greek-and previously married to an Arab man to boot. A section narrated by a Ku Klux Klansman's widow is unconvincing, torn between racism and apology. However Lamb excels at delivering unexpected blows to his characters, ratcheting up the suspense to the final page. Agent: Kassie Evashevski,United Talent Agency. (Nov.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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