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
I'll start with what I liked best. I liked the way that the novel rises out of the roots of the story of a poor, young, self-taught black artist in the 1950s and that all the things that happen to him give rise to everything else in the novel and touch every single life. An author gets to play God, and Lamb does it really really well. The way he sees lives unfolding and the interconnectedness between people in generation after generation and the way they're impacted by the moment in the culture in which they live resonates with me, and I think Lamb is a genius in that way.
He chose to write in a point of view that shifts from character to character AND he makes them all first person present tense. It's quite ambitious to do both. It's like this: I am driving...I take a drink of water...I see a sign for a restaurant I used to go to...I change the channel on the radio...etc. That kind of thing all through the novel. What he gains in the sense of immediacy that works really well in pivotal moments he loses in how self conscious it seems at other times. This is not helped by two of the narrators--the one for Vivica and especially the one for Annie Oh--who overact. They're so affected. It's funny because I listened to the interview with Lamb at the conclusion of the book and he talked about his experience narrating the part of Orion Oh, how the director told him not to overact. Why didn't the director give the same direction to the other actors? While some of the actors' narrations got in the way of the novel, Lamb's effortlessly conveyed his character.
Finally--there are some violent parts of the book that are too much for me. But that is most likely just me. I am more sensitive to violence than most people.
The multiple readers add tremendous flavor to the characters, making it one of my 10 favorite audio books to date.
I'm only half way through the book and am not sure if I will continue. I really liked the prologue and I felt that only good things would follow. The following chapters alternate between Orion and Annie. Orian's chapters are fine but the female narrator's voice is so pretentious that I have trouble listening. Not sure if I'll listen to the rest simply because of her.
Wally Lamb weaves themes of child sexual abuse and loss into a very interesting tale about artists. He gives back stories on the characters as the plot moves forward, and alternately narrates in the first person voice of 3 of the main characters.
The book had several alternating narrators, including the author, which made the listening very enjoyable.
Th author is one of the main characters. Still can't get his voice and story out of my head. A must read!
The story of the characters had me very interested. I was never bored, especially with the audible book as it was narrated by several different people. I found myself rolling my eyes a few times with the degree of personal flaws of every single character. It was a bit much and that is my only major complaint. This was read by my book group and liked
Yes, in about another year or two I like to reread Wally's books. Drama is the name of his game and he is great at seeing the humanity in all of us. There is always a character you can relate to.
Maybe, equally as good for certain
Orion Oh was one of my favorite characters, but this story is not one of favorite characters but the whole piece. the story itself won my heart
Certainly listening to the narrators helps distinguish the character's voices, and make the interactions between the characters more vivid. Kurt's character was perhaps made more vile as he literally gets into your head when listening to the story.
I was surprised by the sense of joy and relief I found at the end of the book. it was both expected, and yet crept up and surprised me. When I listen to an audio book I am not always aware when the end is near (I listen on my ipod). Once iI reached the end (spoiler alert) and Andrew picked up Orion and carried him into the ocean, I knew the story had reached a point of resolution and peace.
Wally Lamb is a magnificent story teller. In listening to his interview at the end of the audio book I appreciated and confirmed for myself how he constructs a story. As the characters are developed and the different voices evolve (like Kurt for example) it again became clear to me that his tales have a life of their own. His characters become real individuals placed in these circumstances, and must fight their way to self awareness and release. (Not unlike the way Orion describes the process of writing in the later chapters. A bit of autobiography perhaps?)
We do not have to like his characters. Kurt is repulsive, and I must admit that listening to his voice made him even creepier than reading his voice might have...you cannot escape his nature when listening to "him". Lamb's stories take the reader from point A to point B, and teach us about human nature and how we can evolve as individuals if we open ourselves up to our hidden truths.
This story really begins with Annie Oh's childhood, and ends with each character on the road to healing. It is clear that Orion has grown as a father, a husband, a friend, despite his horrific paraplegia, Andrew has found a true faith, and is ready to pay the consequences of his actions, even though we hope he will be forgiven by the system; Annie Oh is finally facing her horrific childhood, and will hopefully find peace with her children, and her self. Marrisa and Ariane were less developed characters for me, but both essential to the story lines for they connected the various characters to each other in different ways. The multiple story lines branch off, but ultimately we are left with a sense of peace and hope despite the challenging paths each character takes.
I enjoyed the characters and loved the narration. Even the difficult scenes were handled with grace and didn't lose a bit of the intensity. It isn't easy to find a novel as satisfying as this one.
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