The Hour I First Believed – Updated
by Wally Lamb
I started this book because I read that it was a fictional account of the Columbine High School shooting. Morbid as it is, I’m fascinated with true crime stuff, and Columbine was somewhat significant to me, as I was a senior in high school when it happened in 1999. I haven’t read any other books about it, nor have I watched Bowling for Columbine or any other documentaries, but this book has sunken me deep into websites on the killers and their victims.
I should have seen this coming, but because it’s a Wally Lamb book, it’s certainly not just about Columbine. It’s about the history of the family of the main character, Caelum. Some chapters are dedicated to his grandmother, who ran a women’s prison. Some chapters are epistolary, consisting only of letters from the grandmother to her sister, describing her meeting Samuel Clemens and his family. There’s a lot of women’s rights stuff that comes into play.
I appreciate the variety of structure in the chapters. As I said, some chapters are epistolary, while others consist solely of quotes from Klebold and Harris. There are emails peppered throughout the book, and I like that, especially in a book this long. And yes, this is a Wally Lamb book, so it’s long.
I am enjoying the book, but I could do without the historical chapters. I want to know about Caelum and Maureen, but I don’t particularly care about Lydia meeting Samuel Clemens. I don’t care too much about Caelum’s childhood, to be honest. I want to know more about the present-day timeline. The book could be a good one-third shorter, still cover everything it needs to, and then maybe it wouldn’t have taken me 18 days to get through less than 60% of it.
100% Done – Review
So, I’m kind of annoyed at this book, honestly. I suppose I’m glad that I finished it. I enjoyed most of it. At the same time, though, there was so much that I didn’t like, and I can’t decide which one outweighs the other. First, though, the good. I enjoyed the Columbine aspect, and I liked Moze and Janis. I appreciated the teaching aspects of the story; I’m always easily drawn in by characters who are teachers, because more often than not, I can relate to them in some way.
I didn’t particularly like Caelum or Maureen. I understand that they had some problems, but Caelum was kind of an asshole, and Maureen… I know I was supposed to feel sorry for her, but I really didn’t. I know that I’ve never been in a position that might cause me to make the decisions she did, but I hope to god that if I ever am, I handle it better than she did. Neither of them seemed like good people, which isn’t a prerequisite for me liking a book, but it’d be nice if all of the main characters weren’t terrible.
Speaking of main characters… someone should tell Wally Lamb that every single character in a book doesn’t have to have his or her full background history spelled out. I mean, I just don’t care about Jesse Seaberry (or whatever his name was). I don’t care about his parents’ divorce, although I understand that’s where his mom’s bitterness stemmed from. But hey, look, I just told you that in one sentence without wasting an entire chapter on it!
That’s another thing… there really did not need to be entire chapters discussing the history of Caelum’s family. I literally skipped most of those sections, and I don’t feel like I missed anything by doing that.
So I rated this book 3/5 stars, but honestly, now that I’ve had some time to sit with it, I’m just annoyed by it, and I’d probably drop that down to 2/5.