We are Water by Wally Lamb is a story showcasing the cycle of violence that results from abuse. Damaged people damage other people again and again. The primary storyline involves Annie, who is a mother of three grown children, and who has recently determined that she is a lesbian. As an artist, Annie plans to marry the gallery owner who promotes her work. Annie is one of the above referenced damaged people who perpetuates the cycle within her family. Annie's ex-husband, Orion is oblivious to the trauma that his wife faced as a child, and equally clueless as to what has happened in his own home, even though he is a psychologist.
The most interesting part of the book is the story of Josephus Jones, a black artist who lived on Orion and Annie's Connecticut property years before they did, and died by "falling" into a well. Josephus was based on Ellis Ruley, a black artist who was married to a white woman, and who also died mysteriously in the 1950s. Unfortunately, Josephus is only a small part of Water.
Another part of Water that Lamb took from real life is the story of how Norwich, CT flooded in 1963. That night forever changed Annie's life. From this article, it is clear that Lamb took the details of his story from accounts of what happened that night. Lamb, himself, was there and lived through the flood as a 12 year old. After reading the article, however, I have to wonder how Lamb's neighbor who is interviewed for the article feels about being turned into a fictional pedophile by Lamb.
In Water, Lamb is very explicit in describing the sexual abuse of children. So vivid, in fact, that I have to wonder if he has crossed over the line that separates literature from the realm of something that might stimulate a person who is aroused by children. Am I saying that Water is kiddie porn? Not quite. But whatever it is, I could do without.
The Typical Book Group is right. The characters are not likable, and the pedophile story line was over the top. If Lamb had stuck to the real stories of Ellis and the flood, and maybe spent some more time on the art theft plot instead of the stories of abuse, I would have liked it better.
One more down for the I Love Library Books and the Audiobook Challenges.
If you are interested in winning some free books, there is a Literary Fiction blog hop going on right now. I'm not participating, but I did enter a few of the giveaways. To get to it, visit River City Reading, and click through the list of participants. You can enter to win on every blog. Good luck!
Next up: The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal