Wally Lamb is the author of New York Times and national best-seller The Hour I First Believed as well as novels She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, both No. 1 New York Times best-sellers and Oprah’s Book Club selections. He lives in Connecticut with his family.
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We Are Water: A Novel
We Are Water is a disquieting and ultimately uplifting novel about a marriage, a family and human resilience in the face of tragedy from Wally Lamb, New York Times bestselling 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, Conn. 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 we search for love and meaning in our lives.
What is the most important lesson readers can learn from your book We Are Water: A Novel?
Knowing that we all filter whatever we read through our own life experiences, I encourage readers to find whatever "lessons " they'd like lodged in We Are Water. That said, the lesson I learned by writing this story reaffirms the lesson I've learned in each of my previous novels: that as hard as life can sometimes get, in the end it's love that wins.
What motivated you to tell this story?
This fictional story is loosely based on two non-fictional events which I vividly recall from my Connecticut childhood: the death of an African-American outsider artist (unsuccessful in his own lifetime but highly collectible now) and a devastating flood caused that destroyed much of the downtown area of my hometown and took five lives. The coroner ruled that Ellis Ruley's death was accidental, but the black community believes he was murdered. One of the flood victims was a young mother of three, ages four, two, and 10 months; now in their early 50s, they have become freinds of mine. These two events were unrelated in actuality but are very much related in the novel I've constructed.
What was the most enjoyable part of the process of writing this book?
The most enjoyable part of writing We Are Water was the relative speed at which it came together in my head. For a guy who took nine, six, and nine years to write his first three novels, writing this one in about three years felt like I was composing it at warp speed! I sometimes envy novelists who write from an outline toward a preconceived ending, but it doesn't work that way for me. Each writing day brings new discoveries about who these characters are and what their story is. Nothing is planned in advance.
What excites you about the festival?
I've been to the festival once before and have fond memories of the warm, friendly and engaged audience to whom I presented. I assume that's a characteristic of Festival audiences, not just a fluke, so I'm looking forward to getting back. I also remember the good old Southern cooking that the food purveyors were selling. Looking forward to that, too. Finally, two of our sons live and teach in New Orleans, so my wife Chris and I are anticipating a side trip to see our kids while we're in-state.
What should people look forward to by coming to your presentation at the festival?
Those who come to my presentation should expect something of a roller coaster ride. I like to leaven serious subject matter with humor when I speak, so the audience might find themselves laughing one moments and having their heart strings pulled the next. My favorite part of any presentation is the opportunity to engage with the audience, so those who come can expect a lively q & a exchange.
Is there a question I should have asked you, or one that you have wished someone would ask?
Nothing specific comes to mind, although for years now I have been attempting to fully answer a question I was asked once via my reader mail: If there was to be a Mount Rushmore with female visages, which American women's faces would I want to see carved into the mountain? So far I'm only sure of Eleanor Roosevelt and Aretha Franklin. I remain open to suggestion for the others.
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