Thank you HarperCollins via Edelweiss for providing me with an early copy of this book!
It all started with Joe Jones, a black man – an artist – in the early 60’s. A man whose art isn't taken seriously due to his race. A man who ends up dead unexpectedly and under suspect circumstances. Joe’s story, his legacy, weaves throughout We Are Water seamlessly and unobtrusively. It all sort of sneaks up on you as the reader as you make your way through all the story lines.
This is my first Wally Lamb novel, although I own three more that he has written. I can honestly say, I’ll be picking them all up soon and reading them. Lamb is an amazing writer. His story, though long with quite large chapters, flows in a way that even some shorter and lighter books do not. I was captivated by his prose. To take substantially difficult (to write or to read) themes and make them so readable, so relatable is a chore and he pulls it off amazingly.
Annie and Orion Oh and their families have lived through some trying and horrendous times. The story is narrated by several characters and POV changes with every chapter. This method lends itself quite well to the tale Lamb is weaving. Seeing the events of this story from several points of view will have a reader re-thinking some initial thoughts and opinions for sure. Readers may find themselves unsuspectingly sympathetic to characters that most assuredly don’t seem to, on the surface, deserve our sympathy.
Readers will experience the lives of the characters as they span many decades and Lamb brings it all together nicely. The chapters while changing POV also jump around in time to give readers a more well-balanced view of the canvas. This jumping is handled well and readers won’t feel lost – they’ll feel engaged and informed. This is one of the most well-rounded stories I’ve read all year. So much information provided in such a brilliant way that I feel like it is impossible not to know the characters inside and out – know their stories and how they connect and even affect each other.
Now let’s talk about variety. I don’t know if any other author can put so many variants in his or her story and come out quite as well as Lamb has here. Within the book readers will delve into classism, racism, marriage equality, religion or lack thereof, violence, abuse, psychology, family matters, and even more. But let me be clear – he isn’t just randomly throwing this stuff in every now and then. These themes are well developed, thought out, and distributed with efficiency. Everything plays nicely together and feeds the other themes as necessary. There’s much to think about here – much to learn.
One chapter will display to readers race issues in the art world (as well as more broadly) in the 60’s while another will show you remaining race issues alive today, then somewhere in between readers will look a little at psyche of a parent who was abused or abandoned as a child and how that affects their parenting style. There are several emotions at play in this novel, both for the characters of the story and the reader. I can honestly say, I didn’t cry though. It is more than a touch-the-heart or sappy sad tale. Lamb digs deep and he takes the reader with him. For sure there is emotion, but readers are so involved, so invested that goes beyond crying with the novel because despair and/or sadness isn’t what the reader is left with. Instead, readers are left with hope, understanding, hurt (the book doesn’t let you go without leaving some marks), clarity, and in some cases maybe even more questions to ponder.
I’ll close by saying this: if you are looking for a light and fluffy read, this isn’t it. This isn’t to say you won’t be entertained. However, the book will take you beyond the confines of entertainment or escapism. It will leave you breathless, but also invigorated. Pained, but also healed. There are many things We Are Water will bring to the table and readers can be sure they will not walk away the same person they were upon beginning page 1.
I was provided with an ARC of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I am not compensated for any of my reviews.
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