Just finished Wally Lamb’s third novel, and what a book it is! I thoroughly enjoyed She’s come undone by Wally. Could not believe how well he captured the internal life of an emotionally disturbed, obese young woman in that book!
This new one is the story of the ultimate midlife crisis. In the midst of dealing with the common midlife issue of burying a beloved aunt who helped to raise him, Caelum Quirk finds himself working in the same school where the Columbine massacre occurred. He happens to miss that day of school because of his aunt’s funeral, but his wife Maureen, the school nurse, barely misses annihilation by hiding in a cabinet in the Columbine library. There she develops a lifelong case of PTSD while listening to the killers shoot a number of her students to death.
To Caelum’s credit, he sticks it out with his damaged wife, moving back to his family farm in Connecticut. This novel is the story of all he discovers about himself by loving his wife through thick and thin while also learning about his crazy family history in the process.
This is also the story of what violence does to people through time. The violence others do to us, and the violence we do to ourselves through not acknowledging our own human frailty.
Caelum knows when he returns to the family farm in Connecticut, that there are far too many memories there for him. His line: “The place was radioactive with memories” was a standout.
But, to his credit, he stays and works through it all, solving many mysteries about how he came to be. In the end, he is rewarded with a much better life. He confronts the crisis instead of trying to run away from it once again.
Though definitely long and very convoluted, this novel is well worth sticking with to the end.