The Hour I First Believed
by Wally Lamb
Difficult to read, yet impossible to put down, this book tells the story of a horrifying event and the lives ruined by it. But the book is about so much more: Family, loyalty, family history, chaos, and ultimately about faith. This powerful book weaves in and out of the main characters’ lives, while documenting real life events as if the fictional characters were in the middle of them. High school teacher Caelum and his wife Maureen, move from Connecticut to Littleton, Colorado, where on April 20, 1999, Maureen gets caught up in the horrifying events at Columbine high school. She is severely traumatized after hiding in a cabinet in the school library as several students are killed there. Afterwards, Maureen and Caelum move back to his family farm in Connecticut, believing the safety of the farm environment will help her heal. It does not, and the book takes more tragic turns before Maureen in a roundabout way finds herself again. But that’s not the only story contained in this wonderful book. At the farm, Caelum searches for his family history and discovers who his real mother was, as well as secrets and mysterious events that took place at the farm. It also follows the story of a strange young girl, who also was caught in the Columbine shootings, as she shows up at the farm and in the end brings a great deal of joy.
In the afterword, Wally Lamb tells his readers that he was guided by the ancient myth of the Minotaur as he challenged his main character, Caelum, to locate, at the center of the maze, the monsters he would have to confront in order to save himself and others. I never looked at my life as a maze before, but the author gave me something to think about.
I know this sounds a bit heavy, but if you think about it our lives have been, in a sense, full of monsters since then. On April 20, 1999, I became a US citizen. It started out as such a happy day, waving the flag of my new country together with thousands of other new citizens. Afterwards, my husband and I went to our favorite restaurant in Marina del Rey to celebrate. When we got back in the car, we turned on the radio and learned about the Columbine shootings.
I read She's Come Undone, the best known of this author's earlier books, and liked it. This book is very different, not easy to read, but well worth it in the end. One of the best books I have read this year.