I honestly don’t even know where to begin with this book. There were times I thought for sure I would give it 1 or 2 stars, when I could barely get through it, but I gritted my teeth and plowed through. And now I’m glad I did, because I’ve had time to reflect, and now feel that Wally Lamb’s stream-of-consciousness writing is done so perfectly that he merits three stars. But only for that reason.
The blurb on the jacket of the book is deceiving; it’s supposed to be about a middle aged woman who leaves her husband after 26+ years of marriage for another woman, their subsequent wedding, and how her family copes with it. But it isn’t about that at all. At least not for the most part. Oh, Annie does leave her husband. And she does marry her fiancé Viveca (the wedding is very near the end of the book). And her family does cope with it, just not in any sort of realistic way.
*The wedding isn’t a spoiler; it’s right there on the jacket of the book.
You see, it was sort of ass backwards. Her three kids, the twins Ariane and Andrew, and their youngest daughter, Marissa, each cope with the shock of their mother’s exit from the closet differently. But to me, it seems that some of it was a bit negative. In reality, young adults tend to be more liberal than their parents, with each generation becoming just a bit more tolerant of change than the previous generations. That’s just the way the world spins.
Of course, there are exceptions to this, but what’s unfortunate about the way that Wally Lamb (excellent name, btw) has chosen to explore the only conservative character in his book is to turn her into a caricature of a real person. How unfair and disappointing. It’s obvious that Lamb is a liberal and takes that pov in his books, which is totally understandable and acceptable; it’s his right to do so. But that doesn’t mean it’s right to turn Casey-Lee into a hateful, close-minded little troll either.
Not all Texans or conservatives are like that, and this generalization is a big reason why both sides can’t see eye to eye. Maybe it’s natural to fail to see the points of other people, and to trivialize their better parts of their nature just because we don’t agree with their philosophies.
However, when it comes to reading novels, I expect a certain amount of enlightenment from the author. After all, they believe they know enough about human nature to create realistic, believable characters from thin air, and they expect to be paid for it. In return for my money and attention, I expect at least that much from them, but unfortunately it was a Big Fat Fail with Casey-Lee, Andrew’s fiancé. What makes it even worse is that Casey-Lee is the only character who is this poorly written. Even Kent Kelly is written superbly, and I’m sure that was no easy task.
Another point I’d like to make is regarding Orion Oh, Annie’s ex-husband. Judging from his and Annie’s sex life, we’re supposed to deduce that Annie was in the closet during her entire marriage. Not bisexual, but a lesbian. Due to this, I take issue with the fact that Orion Oh’s reaction to this was much too mild.
I’ve known people who have been left out of the blue like this. Their husband/wife came out of the closet and left them for another man/woman. Like it or not, it hurts differently and worse when that happens, partially because the injured person feels like they were lied to for most of their lives. I’m not saying people shouldn’t be happy and stay true to themselves, but if you’re going to write about a sticky subject like this, then you need to be honest and not sugar coat things. This is a much trickier and messy situation than a lot of things that can go wrong in a marriage. Being politically correct or having wishful thinking has no place in a story like this.
Strangely enough, the biggest issue I have has nothing to do with any of that. It has everything to do with Annie and what she did to Andrew. That was a much bigger deal than it was made to be in the book, and unfortunately, it felt as though it was being swept under the rug, trivialized, and not properly dealt with by Annie. Sorry, but I just can’t ignore that and focus on her gay wedding like it’s a small matter that can be overcome easily. It’s too big of an issue; in fact, entire books have been written based on this one thing alone, so it’s preposterous to expect readers to go along with the way it was written.
And now I understand perfectly why Andrew did what he did (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it). He was looking for someone to blame and possibly express his rage to, and hasn’t even begun to deal with the real reason: his MOTHER.
Now that’s a worthy sequel. Just as long as Lamb is willing to approach it honestly.