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The Hour I First Believed
Cover of The Hour I First Believed
The Hour I First Believed
A Novel
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When high school teacher Caelum Quirk and his wife, Maureen, move to Littleton, Colorado, they both get jobs at Columbine High School. In April 1999, while Caelum is away, Maureen finds herself in the...
When high school teacher Caelum Quirk and his wife, Maureen, move to Littleton, Colorado, they both get jobs at Columbine High School. In April 1999, while Caelum is away, Maureen finds herself in the...
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  • When high school teacher Caelum Quirk and his wife, Maureen, move to Littleton, Colorado, they both get jobs at Columbine High School. In April 1999, while Caelum is away, Maureen finds herself in the library at Columbine, cowering in a cabinet and expecting to be killed. Miraculously, she survives. But when Caelum and Maureen flee to an illusion of safety on the Quirk family's Connecticut farm, they discover that the effects of chaos are not easily put right.

    While Maureen fights to regain her sanity, Caelum discovers five generations' worth of diaries, letters, and newspaper clippings in his family's house. As unimaginable secrets emerge, Caelum grapples with the past and struggles to fashion a future from the ashes of tragedy. His quest for meaning is at once mythic and contemporary, personal and quintessentially American.

 

Awards-

About the Author-

  • Wally Lamb is the author of five New York Times bestselling novels: She's Come Undone, I Know This Much Is True, The Hour I First Believed, Wishin' and Hopin', and We Are Water. His first two works of fiction, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, were both #1 New York Times bestsellers and selections of Oprah's Book Club. Lamb edited Couldn't Keep It to Myself, I'll Fly Away, and You Don't Know Me, three volumes of essays from students in his writing workshop at York Correctional Institution, a women's prison in Connecticut, where he has been a volunteer facilitator for two decades. He lives in Connecticut and New York.

Reviews-

  • AudioFile Magazine Caelum Quirk is a quirky guy who can't seem to stay married. He's on wife Number 3, and things are rocky. He teaches at Columbine High School, and his wife, Maureen, is the school nurse. Then, tragedy strikes, and Maureen's mental health deteriorates. George Guidall's voice offers safe haven, even as he takes listeners into Columbine's library and hallways during the nightmare. Guidall is particularly chilling while performing segments from the killers' journals, and when Caelum discovers a cache of letters revealing old family secrets, Guidall assumes the diction and personae of the nineteenth century. Wally Lamb's long-awaited novel goes off in many directions--the aftermath of tragedy, women's rights, prison reform, slavery, sexual orientation, faith, and chaos theory. Guidall's performance makes for spellbinding listening. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award (c) AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from December 22, 2008
    Lamb’s third novel tackles the Columbine high school shooting head on as he places his fictional protagonists into the horrific events of April 1999. Caelum and his wife, Maureen, move to Colorado for teaching jobs at Columbine not long before the shootings. As the events unfold, Maureen finds herself in harms way but luckily survives, only to be haunted by the occurrence. Narrator George Guidall reads with an earnest, familiar voice. He draws listeners into this fascinating tale with nothing more than raw emotion and honesty; rarely does such a straightforward performance tap into the human psyche so effectively. A HarperCollins hardcover.

  • Kirkus

    November 15, 2008
    A glacially paced novel of modern manners and mayhem, its chief elements being middle-aged angst, mass murder and pizza.

    Like Jack Torrance of Stephen King's The Shining, Caelum Quirk is a man of ambition who moved to Colorado to find his fortune and wound up teaching creative writing to the unwilling. At the beginning of the book, we learn that Caelum's wife, Maureen, has been engaging in certain extracurricular activities. While Caelum does not take an ax to the offending parties, he is consigned to the hell of anger-management courses all the same. For her part, Maureen discovers horror when violence erupts at the school where she works —namely, Columbine High, in the tidy Denver suburb of Littleton. Caelum, a teacher, is absent, attending to a sick aunt across the country. While doing so, and over the course of much time and much talk among many characters, Maureen reckons with having become unhinged while Caelum discovers ominous clippings in the family archive. Lamb (I Know This Much Is True, 1998, etc.) writes at considerable leisure about all this; indeed, the gunfire starts 150 pages into the narrative. Meanwhile and after, there is much pondering. Lamb knows how to put together a good, meaning-charged sentence ( "I ' ve stalked the monster during long, meditative runs on country roads, at the bottoms of wine and scotch bottles, and over the Internet, that labyrinth inside the labyrinth "), but there are plenty of clunkers, too. Moreover, the takeaway point isn't quite clear: Lamb seems to be suggesting that inside every one of us, or at least every family, there's a Dylan Klebold screaming to get out and plenty of skeletons for too few closets.

    A clearer focus and a forgone subplot or two would have helped. Of interest, however, as an entry in the body of literature that has emerged from real tragedy.

    (COPYRIGHT (2008) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • Booklist

    November 15, 2008
    Lamb has enjoyed phenomenal popularity ever since being annointed by Oprah for inclusion in her book clubtwoyears in a row. Shes Come Undone got the nod in 1997, and I Know This Much Is True was chosen in 1998.This is his first novel in 10 years, and, continuing his practice oftaking his book titles fromsongs lyrics, the title isa linefrom Amazing Grace. In a sprawling narrative that contains enough tragedy for three novels, Lamb tells the story of 47-year-old English teacher Caelum Quirk and his third wife, Maureen, a nurse. After almost breaking up over Maureens infidelity, the twomove to Littleton, Colorado, hoping for a fresh start. There they take jobs at Columbine High School. Thats where Maureen ends upcowering in a cabinetfor hours while Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris methodically execute students in the library before taking their own lives.Maureennever recovers from this tragedy, which sends her on a downward spiral that eventually encompasses addiction to prescription medicine, vehicular homicide, and a lengthy prison stint. Meanwhile, Caelum rents out his home to refugees from Hurricane Katrina andresearches his own family history via old diaries and letters found in the far reaches of his house. Itwill come as no surprise toreaders that the history is a dark one. Lambsoverlong narrative and endless recitation of tragedy dilute the power of his story.Still, hisparticular brand of hope-and-despair fiction holds a powerful allure for his fans, who will be lining up for this long-awaited novel.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2008, American Library Association.)

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