That’s a stretch, I know, but hear me out.
I just finished reading We Are Water, Wally Lamb’s latest piece of brilliant storytelling, and stumbled upon an interview with him printed at the end of the book. Two paragraphs into the interview, I gasped. He described the first time a character arrived in his brain. It was unsolicited and strange and exactly the way it happened to me. It occurred the night his son was born.
He says, “I was up all night in the room with my wife, and she went to sleep and Jared went off to the nursery. I’d counted all his fingers and toes and everything looked good, so I went back to our home to take a shower and I was going to call the relatives — and while I was in the shower, this voice that wasn’t exactly my voice started complaining about his summer job as a Mister Softee ice cream truck driver.”
He continues, “Now at the time, I didn’t know that I wanted to write fiction. I didn’t know that it was a character who was speaking. But I did have the impulse — I got out of the shower, and even before I got dressed, I wrote down the two or three lines that the voice and said. And then I forgot about them.”
He rediscovered the lines a month later, tended to them, and ended up writing his first short story. Eleven years later, he published She’s Come Undone, which is in my Top Ten favorite books of all time.
It’s a dose of reassurance to know that other writers experience the bizarre manifestation of characters the way I did. Quite unsolicited, if I may add. One day, Leona was not here, and the next day she was. Have I ever mentioned her name before? I can’t recall. Leona Fisher. She’s my first protagonist, the one who started all of this upheaval in my brain. She showed up, introduced herself, and talked about her family. Once I realized I was meant to tell her story and was not suffering from schizophrenia, I listened clearly and typed.
I’m up to eight rejections now. So prickly it hurts. I’ve not lost all hope and I’m not quitting. Instead, I’m continuing with Novel No. 2 (unrelated to Leona) and trying very hard to not to take every little thing so personally.
A quick review about We Are Water:
If you are a fan of Wally Lamb, you will likely read this book on your own accord. You won’t be disappointed. Everything is just as it should be.
For others, I offer a brief description: The story surrounds one family and is told by each member’s perspective. After nearly 30 years of marriage, Annie and Orion have gotten divorced. No one saw it coming, especially their three children, twins Arianne and Andrew, and the young impetuous Marissa. At the crux of the story is Annie’s decision to remarry – this time to Viveca, a wealthy art dealer in New York City, just as gay marriage becomes legal in Connecticut. Dipping back and forth in time, Lamb pieces together everyone’s point of view, including others from the past, to weave a story that explains why we do the things we do. Painful truths come out in desperation, a reminder that nothing can ever be fully buried.
There is such sadness in this story, but it isn’t without bits of redemption in the distinct voice that makes Wally Lamb’s work so unique. To weigh it by comparison, it’s not as good as She’s Come Undone, but I enjoyed it more than I Know This Much is True and The Hour I First Believed.