Book Review by Crystal Casavant (Crystal Otto)
“The Hour I First Believed” by Wally Lamb
When you connect with a literary character, that person becomes part of you and when the book has aged and the pages have yellowed, that character remains…and you are changed because of the exchange, the relationship of sorts that you had with that book and the character. Caelum Quirk is more than a character in a fiction novel. Caelum is my friend and brother. His triumphs and trials were described in such a way that I felt we were on a journey together.
Some people question bits and pieces of their past. Caelum Quirk questions everything anyone has ever told him. His birth certificate had been falsified. If the first document about your life is a lie, what else could have been altered? Where do you turn when you want answers and yet are afraid to find them? Caelum returns to the house he was raised in and the town he had left behind. He had hoped to piece together a few bits and pieces. Never could anyone expect to learn what he learned about his ancestors and friends. He found his heritage and created a legacy. The Hour I First Believed is a story of forgiveness and strength. The story is expertly told and will be appreciated for generations.
Lamb writes with a comfortable balance between details, imagery, and emotion. The characters come alive as you envision the cold conversation between a husband and wife who no longer appreciate one another. Rage, concern, jealousy, and love are woven together like a warm sweater. The main character, Caelum Quirk, had not believed in a higher power and without realizing it, there was more that he didn’t believe in. He didn’t believe in himself or those he claimed to love and trust. The system failed him, family failed him, and it wasn’t until he was in the depths of despair that he found what he was looking for.
Until I read The Hour I First Believed, I hadn’t thought much about life after a school shooting. I couldn’t imagine what a family would do if they lost everything in the aftermath of a hurricane. I’ve had friends who have overcome death, divorce, and work problems, but none of their situations is anything like Caelum Quirk’s experience. Lamb takes his reader to a place they might otherwise avoid. Subjects like adultery, homosexuality, slavery, betrayal, abuse, imprisonment, and the justice system are all part of Caelum’s story.
This is a story that you will visit in your mind when you are faced with a difficult situation or decision. You finish the book with a new awareness of the cruel world and a new appreciation for the beauty that blossoms regardless of the cruel surroundings. This is a book about struggle. More importantly, it is a book about triumph, love, forgiveness, and understanding. Lamb has outdone himself and The Hour I First Believed is a must read novel!