I finished reading Wally Lamb's new book last night, The Hour I First Believed. I thought the novel was fantastic, right up there with his previous two works, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much is True.
Many people have waited a near decade for Lamb to publish another book and he did not disappoint. He actually took an historically tragic event, the Columbine school shootings, and centered an entire work of fiction around them while also incorporating 9/11, The Iraq War, and Katrina. Not a tragic event, but Barack Obama even makes a cameo appearance. Throughout the novel, evidence of the amount of research Lamb had done becomes clear and explains the lengthy gap between novels. The reader also gets an inside look on what is clearly Lamb's experiences from teaching creative writing to incarcerated women.
In my opinion, Lamb is the master of character development. And I was thrilled that he journeyed back through history several generations to enhance this development similarly to that of which he did in I Know This Much is True. By the way, keep a look-out for cameo appearances from some old friends.
Lastly, Lamb noted in his afterword that one of the reasons for using Columbine and not a fictional school shooting was so that he had a platform to list the names of those who died and were injured in the attacks. It is clear that the tragic event shook Lamb deeply and the book really does resonate as a tribute in a carefully crafted way. I truly enjoyed reading it.