We Are Water is a disquieting and ultimately uplifting audiobook about a marriage, a family, and human resilience in the face of tragedy, from Wally Lamb, the New York Times best-selling author of The Hour I First Believed and I Know This Much is True.
After 27 years of marriage and three children, Anna Oh - wife, mother, outsider artist - has fallen in love with Viveca, the wealthy Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her success. They plan to wed in the Oh family's hometown of Three Rivers in Connecticut. But the wedding provokes some very mixed reactions and opens a Pandora's Box of toxic secrets - dark and painful truths that have festered below the surface of the Ohs' lives.
We Are Water is a layered portrait of marriage, family, and the inexorable need for understanding and connection, told in the alternating voices of the Ohs: nonconformist, Anna; her ex-husband, Orion, a psychologist; Ariane, the do-gooder daughter, and her twin, Andrew, the rebellious only son; and free-spirited Marissa, the youngest. It is also a portrait of modern America, exploring issues of class, changing social mores, the legacy of racial violence, and the nature of creativity and art.
With humor and compassion, Wally Lamb brilliantly captures the essence of human experience and the ways in which we search for love and meaning in our lives.
The complete list of narrators includes Robin Miles and Sandy Rustin.
©2013 Wally Lamb (P)2013 HarperCollinsPublishers
The characters are like real people and the story is pretty exciting.
I don't want to put in any spoilers, so I can't say. There are plenty of intriguing surprises.
The character narrated by Wally Lamb himself is a little bit unimpeachable. His vulnerabilities should emerge sooner in the narrative--that's my only critique. I love all the other characters.
I read reviews on Amazon to support the opinion I had about the triteness of this novel and not surprisingly found reviewers who liked it. So they enjoyed it far more than I.
Twelve Years a Slave
Wally Lamb should not read his or anyone's audio books. His voice was too weak and he isn't an actor.
I was listening to it rather than reading it; so I could come to the end in relatively short time and exercise while I listened.
I loved Wally Lamb's first 3 novels, especially "I Know This Much is True". So this book was a big disappointment!!! The only thing I liked about it was the prologue read by my favorite narrator of all times, George Guidall! In my long reading history, there have been only 3 books that I could not finish. This came close. The characters were completely irrational. The dialogue whether out loud or in their heads was sappy, trite, and sappier and triter than have ever read. I virtually gagged on much of it.
It was too graphic for me.
I liked it. Glad I stuck with the book because the ending was good.
The creepy voice of Kent.
I almost stopped listening several times because it was too graphic
I remember feeling enthralled by Lamb's perceptivity in his earlier books. This one, however, features characters who strike me as trite, shallow. And despite the awesome line-up of narrators, I found myself dreading the tedium of listening further.
Yes - I have already done so. The narration is wonderful; the story is powerful.Presenting it as five - six narratives (sometimes of the same event) connects you to the characters and to the story in a way that one perspective could not.
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen comes to mind in that it covers several years of a relationship with multiple points of view.
I did not read the book, so I can not tell how it would have been different. However, the narrator who performed creepy Kent's character made my skin crawl. The presentation of Orion, Annie and Andrew was very vivid. I don't think reading their narratives would have been the same.
I think perhaps it was Andrew, though I connected the most with Orion. Andrew surprised me - he was a great guy hidden behind the facade of dogmatic religiosity. As your understanding of him evolves, he becomes someone you really like and root for - and remember.
I've read (listened to) all of Wally Lamb's books and loved them all. This story could have been trite - in that one of the themes is over used in books and movies - but it was not trite. The characters are written with three dimensions - not all good, and not all bad. I will continue to think of them for a while.
There is a lot to like in this new offering from Wally Lamb, a great contemporary novelist. Well-drawn characters, a compelling story line, and an excellent performance on Audible make it worth a listen. I am still arguing with myself about the quarrels I have with the story line and some of the components of its execution.
One theme of We Are Water is the effects of childhood trauma on adult behavior and the development of one's own family. The two parents, Annie and Orion, each had atypical childhoods. While Annie's childhood was marked by severe trauma in the form of a flood that killed her mother and sister, her father's descent into alcoholism, her abuse at the hands of a cousin, and a long hitch in foster care, bi-racial Orion was never acknowledged by his father, and was raised by a single mother and his Italian-American grandparents. We Are Water focuses on the direct effects of Annie's upbringing, and glosses over the ways that Orion's childhood influenced his distance from his children, his willingness to overlook what was going on between Annie and the children, and the reasons why he chose a career as a therapist. There are some good linkages between Orion's therapy practice, which targets college students, and what is experienced by his own children, but in general, the story is largely about Annie.
Another theme of We Are Water is what we mean when we say "love". Wally Lamb definitely takes me where I want to go with this one---love is unconditional, love is supportive, love is constant. Everyone gets that right in this story.
A third theme of We Are Water is the toxicity of keeping secrets from the people you love. We learn that suppression of emotions and experience have horrible consequences. Orion, as a therapist, is in a strong position to make this connection. Although he is no longer practicing psychotherapy by the last part of the book, he is still the confessor for most of the family.
There were several story elements that I found disappointing or distracting:
• I kept expecting Viveca to do something bad. She seemed overly acquisitive about the Oh family's possessions, overly controlling, and narcissistic. That didn't happen, which was a good thing, but I felt like I had been taken down a road to nowhere.
• The first-person story from Kent The Molester gave him too much credit. I felt that I was expected to sympathize with him, which I did not. Lamb did not have to prove that Kent was a person who consistently behaved badly, but he tried much too hard in We Are Water.
• The Josephus Jones subplot failed to tie in to the story in a significant way. It seemed like a red herring when Viveca didn't become a greedy schemer to get those paintings, as I expected.
• Orion did not need to have such a tragic outcome. I can see where Lamb (and probably his editors!) decided that something needed to happen to force the family to unite and gel. I don't think that was necessary in order to fulfill the story's thematic goals.
• There was an odd scene in which Andrew's fiancee had a conversation with Dr. Laura Schlessinger on the radio.
• The gay marriage subplot could have been better explored. Do Annie and Viveca have a lesbian social group? Why can't Orion be more angry about Annie leaving him for a woman, and yet guilty about having such thoughts? Why is Annie coming out now? Did her lesbianism result from the childhood abuse, or would she have been gay if her family had stayed intact? Did she ever have close friendships or attractions to women during the many years of her marriage to Orion?
• Orion continues to hold onto a traditional concept of faith and religion, even after his life changes and he learns that he must rely on a community of love to care for him. Wally Lamb clearly knows that there are faith traditions available today that do not rely on a powerful and personal God as a higher power, but instead understand that a higher power can be defined as "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts". Much of contemporary Unitarian Universalism is based on experiencing the power of community. Whether he considered it religion or not, I wish Orion had noted that love is a higher power, and that like water, love can fill all the nooks and crannies of our souls.
A note on the performance: All the actors were good for the parts they read, and it was nice to hear the author read part of the story. Good job, Audible!
Lover of books with no time to read. I spend a lot of time in the car, this medium allows me to catch up on my missed reading.
Although the content of the book was at times very disturbing and difficult to listen to, it was pivotal to the story and the insight into the characters in this well written story. Wally Lamb is a master storyteller.
I had a love hate relationship with Annie
I do not usually like when multiple actors read the story, but I think t added a needed dimension.
Really enjoyed all the characters and their interconnected stories. Multiple narrators made listening to this book even better.
Wally Lamb is a mater of character development. This book is an absolutel testament to that. After finishing it, I find myself still thinking about the characters.
Annie Oh. She was so flawed and complex. I felt as though I knew her. Kent was definitely my least favorite, which is not surprising given his flaws, but he was well written nonetheless.
Orion Oh. Partly because I knew that it was Wally Lamb reading it.
Yes. I listen to books on my morning commute and found myself sitting in the parking lot at work more than once to finish a chapter.
Yes, it kept me interested in the richly fleshed-out characters and the captivating story.
She's Come Undone
Secrets Steal Life
The narrators kept me coming back for more. I had to find out how these characters dealt with their demons.
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