Wally Lamb is back with an “ultra-contemporary novel” that deploys his gift for empathy to explore love, sadness, sexuality, ethnicity and art across two decades among a group of upper-middle class resident of Connecticut.
His fifth novel, We Are Water, centers on Annie Oh who, after 27 years of marriage and three chidlren, has fallen in love with Viveca, her art dealer. Annie, a self-taught artist, and Viveca plan to wed in the family’s hometown of Three Rivers, Conn., where gay marriage has recently been legalized. But the impending wedding provokes mixed reactions among family members and opens up a Pandora’s box of painful secrets that have festered below the surface. In the latest novel by best-selling writer Wally Lamb, he details the lives of a troubled family struggling to find redemption in the aftermath of childhood trauma and abuse.
As Emma G. Keller observes in the Guardian, We Are Water offers a wide-range of fraught situations, including the “accidental” death of a black man married to a white woman, “a son who enlists as an army nurse to treat Afghan vets suffering horrific injuries … [and] an overweight daughter who decides to become a single mother and gets pregnant from a donor site while her crazy sister, the aspiring actress (one for the ages, of course), goes to meet some Hollywood big-shot who assaults her after having a few lines of coke. Everything in this highly readable book shouts “Now!” starting with the ethnicity of the protagonist, Orion Oh, who is an Asian-Italian American.”
Writing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Lorinda Hayes calls the title a puzzle. “Does this reference the terrible flood that took away Annie Oh's mother and infant sister? Is it a reference to the ocean at the Cape Cod beach where her ex-husband, Orion, seeks refuge after his sudden retirement and divorce? Is it the well where black stone mason and primitive artist Josephus Jones was found dead decades earlier? This book is a story about questions and the people who always ask them as well as the people who arrogantly think they know all the answers. …
“The book assaults the reader with violence, anger and hate, yet the title evokes a sense of peace and tranquility. Race, religion, sexuality, poverty, wealth, education, values, trust and lies all clash like stormy waves against a rocky coast. How does one find peace? How does a family learn to function in the light of all of these differences? What does it mean to define ourselves as we are water?
- Read an excerpt from the novel.
- Listen to Wally discuss the novel with Diane Rehm.
- Watch him talk about the book.
- Read a short feature on Wally from the New York Times.
Wally Lamb’s Top Ten List
1. The Odyssey by Homer (ninth century b.c.e.?).
2. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605, 1615).
3. King Lear by William Shakespeare (1605).
4. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (1749).
5. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884).
6. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser (1900).
7. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925).
8. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939).
9. The stories of Flannery O’Connor (1925–64).
10. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967).