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Arts & Culture

Wally Lamb's New Novel, We Are Water

Chion Wolf / WNPR

From Faith Middleton: Wally Lamb's books beat with a human heart.

Many people, especially Wally Lamb's fans, recall that his first novel, She's Come Undone, was selected by Oprah's book club. But what I remember is the experience of riding in the New York subway, and seeing so many people bumping along, engrossed in his story. On one occasion, these subway readers, strangers to each other, started a discussion about the book—possibly the first underground book club. 

Wally Lamb's writing touches people. I saw that many years ago when I was hired as a consulting editor at The Hartford Courant's Sunday Magazine. In the so-called slush pile of submissions, there was a story from Wally. He had me at sentence one. I told the magazine they had to publish this guy's work; it was Wally's first published story.

In his new novel, We Are Water, Wally uses a zoom lens to look inside his characters, and a long-distance lens, to understand the past. The framework for his story is how each of us responds to this unpredictable life of ours. Lamb's great sensitivity, and compassion, is not a stance; it's the real thing because it's who Wally is.

I couldn't say for sure, but there are parts of the story in We Are Water, that feel exceptionally personal.

Lamb and his wife, Christine, live in Connecticut with their three sons. We Are Water is set in the fictional Connecticut town of Three Rivers. In real life, Wally has spent the last 15 years as a volunteer facilitator at The York Correctional Institution, the women's prison in Niantic. It is as true in his books as it is in his own life: Wally Lamb believes in redemption.

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  • Wally Lamb is the author of We Are Water.

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