The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

I recently read Wally Lamb’s “The Hour I First Believed”.  The story is about the aftermath of the Columbine High School shootings, and follows the lives of the school nurse (who although not physically harmed, was severely traumatised) and her husband (the main character/narrator) .

Although I really enjoyed Wally Lamb’s writing, there came a point in the book where he lost me. He starts telling the story of the main character’s family history, and of a previous Civil War era generation. Although this didn’t seem to quite fit in the book, I felt it would be okay if it was done in a descriptive, third-person way (not sure what the literary term is for this). But Lamb gives these characters a voice through a serious of old letters. And here is where his writing lost credibility for me. It didn’t sound “right”. Somehow the tone of the book in those chapters changes, and it sounds false – too much like a romance novel. In the case of “The Hour I First Believed” adding those chapters made for a very long book (700 plus pages), and I think that the book would have been a better one without them.

This is the third book I’ve read where the author uses this method to tell their story. And every time it just sounds wrong to me.  When I was thinking about it, it occurred to me that I don’t feel that way when I read books actually written during that period (or any other in history).  Does this mean that most authors should stick to what they know?


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Categories: Books/Book Reviews


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at and (my photoblog)


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