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Book Reviews of The Hour I First Believed

The Hour I First Believed
The Hour I First Believed
Author: Wally Lamb
ISBN-13: 9780060393496
ISBN-10: 0060393491
Publication Date: 11/1/2008
Pages: 800
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.

3.8 stars, based on 280 ratings
Publisher: Harper
Book Type: Hardcover
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

50 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

kermitreads avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 53 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 15
I know Mr. Lamb has been sitting on a big pile of cash for the last ten years, but he should have written the four books he apparently started instead of shoveling them all into this one. I wanted to beat myself with this book half-way through in the hopes my husband would take it away and throw it in the trash. This was a complete disappointment. Lucky for you all you are getting it free rather than to waste your hard earned money on this train wreck of a book.
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 14 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 14
The critic reviews of this book were less than outstanding. I honestly don't understand why. Yes, this book covers several stories at the same time, and yes, parts of it seem to blast out unexpectedly. But isn't that how the real world works? Things you never expect come flying at you and the average person juggles several different concerns at a time. You have to pay attention to this book, it isn't a fluffy filler like a grocery store paperback romance. But Wally Lamb has always gone off on tangents, so this shouldn't surprise anyone. Worth the energy it takes to appreciate a good book.
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 25 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 13
I love Wally Lamb books, and this was no exception. It is over 700 pages, but keeps your interest all the way through. There is the story of the couple whose lives are uprooted by the wife's being involved in the Columbine massacre and her PTSD, (the "main" story), the one about the husband's family life and illustrious heritage as the descendent of a crusader for women's rights and prison reform, the one about Velvet, another victim of Columbine,(but messed up before that), who comes to heal through her association with Maureen and Caelum, the protagonists in the "main" story. Then there is the story of family secrets and illegitimate birth, alcoholism and "love addiction", mores of the 19th century, and on and on. It is like life, ongoing and complex, with multiple influences intertwined and impinging on each other. Read it!
skywaywaver avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 148 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 12
If you didn't like Lamb's second novel and loved his first (She's Come Undone), give him another chance with this one. It is a long read, but well worth it. No, it isn't quite the greatness that Undone was, but it gets close.
Lamb definitely does travel some historical ground in this one, from the Civil War, abolition, suffrage to Columbine, the Iraq war and many other current events. As I said, don't think this is a speedy read that you will zip through. I definitely found it it a bit weightier than Undone.
Of course, now I am waiting for his next book. :)
TarynC avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 213 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 7
I love the way Wally Lamb writes - he is amazing. This book was another well written book with great character development. However, it should have been broken into 2 separate books - he had some amazing tales to tell but it was way too much for one book. The Columbine shooting and the after effects could have made one really great book and the other story about the family history could have made another really interesting book. I was tempted to give up the story midway because it just didnt seem to know where it was going and I was getting frustrated, however, a friend told me to persevere and I am glad I did. So, if you are in the mood for a very a very long story with many subplots, twists and turns then you will love it. Also, if you have read his book about women in prison,Couldn't keep it to myself, you will find that that was a big influence on this book.
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 121 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
Story Overview
This is the story of Caelum Quirk -- a middle-aged teacher who is trying to come to terms with his present, his past and his troubled marriage. Married to Maureen (his third wife), Caelum's story begins with his troubles handling Maureen's infidelity. In an attempt to save their marriage, they leave their home in Connecticut and move to Littleton Colorado, where they work at Columbine High School. (Yes...that Columbine High School. Maureen is the school nurse and Caelum is an English teacher.) The move seems to help the marriage somewhat, but Caelum and Maureen still have moments of distance between them. Then Caelum's beloved aunt -- and his only link to his family -- suffers a stroke and Caelum returns to Connecticut to say goodbye. While in Connecticut, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold go on their well-publicized rampage in the high school.

Panicked and unable to reach Maureen, Caelum returns in a panic to Littleton. He finally locates her, but she is a shell of her former self. Trapped in the library during the shootings, Maureen is unable to cope with the fact that she has survived. Maureen begins to unravel. Attempting to help Maureen deal with her post-traumatic stress disorder, Caelum moves them back to his aunt's house in Connecticut. There, Maureen continues to deteriorate while Caelum struggles to keep them financially afloat. During this time, Caelum discovers a secret family history that casts a new light on everything he thought was true about his family.

My Thoughts
You may be thinking "Wow, just go tell us the whole story, why don't you?" Believe me when I tell you that I just gave you the bare bones plot. There is A LOT going on in this book, which I think is ultimately its fatal flaw.

Don't get me wrong. Wally Lamb is a fantastic writer, and I didn't once consider not finishing this book. However, there is so much going on that I felt that the novel suffered. There are long sections of the book devoted to Caelum's ancestor, Lillian Popper, and her experiences during the Civil War era. (These sections are either provided as diary entries or as excerpts from a "thesis" written by one of the characters.) There is a lengthy "transcript" from when Caelum interviews an older gentleman about the history of a cigarette company. There are subplots about Iraq war veterans, Hurricane Katrina victims, a prison, a family unable to accept their favored son's homosexuality, and Caelum's best friend's search for love and the perfect car. In short, there is material enough in this book for about three novels, but Lamb packs it all into one. Ultimately, I think this was a mistake. If Lamb wanted to write about Lillian Popper's life in such depth, perhaps he should have made this a separate novel.

I also have an issue with some of the amazing coincidences that Lamb contrives for his characters. Isn't it just a little too convenient that the Hurricane Katrina victims he offers shelter to include a women's studies graduate student that pulls together the convoluted story of Caelum's family? And during one point, so much stuff happens at the same time that I just threw up my hands in disbelief.

But...there is no getting around the fact that Wally Lamb is a gifted writer. In the case of this book, I felt like he just had too much to say and crammed it all together into one book. I felt it would have been enough to focus on Caelum and Maureen's marriage and their post-Columbine experiences. I think if the author had pulled out three of the different story threads (the Columbine story, the Lillian Popper story, the Iraq war veteran story), he could have had three distinct and more focused novels. As it is, you get it all in one big, sprawling book, and none of the stories get the attention and focus they deserve.

My Final Recommendation
Ultimately, I cannot give this book a no-holds-barred recommendation. I wish I could have liked this book more because the writing itself is darn good, and I love how Lamb incorporates all the little details that squarely places his story in the time in which it was happening. But I really do think the book is flawed because of its sprawl and disjointed plot. Here's wishing Mr. Lamb's next book is a little more focused.
MichiganderHolly avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 6 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
I really liked Wally Lamb's other two books so I was anticipating a good read with this one and I got it.

The story at first seems to be about the tragedy at Columbine but really it is about how a married couple deals with the fallout from the tragedy as well as other things that have affected their lives. Also the exploration of the family history of the main character takes up the latter half of the book. This may at times make it seem like HIFB is two separate stories rolled into one which can be wierd for some.

What I really liked about this book was that the characters were human and really believable. I didn't necessarily like Caelum Quirk or his reactions to some of the issues he deals with in the book but it is how I would imagine a real person would react.

I loved how the book dealt with the PTSD issue. I have PTSD so I was really skeptical about how accurately the author would portray the relationship between Caelum and Maureen after the Columbine fallout. I realize not all people will react the same but a lot of the symptoms are the same and Mr. Lamb nailed the struggles on that front. There were parts of the book where I felt the author had to have been standing in my living room observing me and my hubby before he wrote this book.

The history of the Quirk family was interesting also but it was in this section that the story kind of got bogged down a bit. The author was laying the groundwork for this phase and it got a little less interesting but it did pick back up as the story got more involved.

The story deals with heavy issues so it is probably not for someone who requires a happy ending to everything they read. It is rare that I retain much from a book for more than a day or two but this one stuck with me. Great book overall. I am looking forward to Mr. Lamb's next one.
smearkle avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 2 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
I liked the beginning of the book. The author stayed within the topic. But as the book progresses, the author is talking about many different topics, and I lost interest. This would have been a great book had the author remained focused on the main topic, the Columbine High School shootings. But instead we are reading about the Civil War, family history, and every thing else BUT Columbine.
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on
Helpful Score: 2
I thought this was a very intelligently written book. The author includes history, current events, with religious and social relevance. He even includes a reference to his other novel which I thought was very clever.I enjoyed this novel a great deal. A must read for Wally Lamb fans.
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 175 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Not "why" or "if" we believe, but "how"..., September 13, 2009

Although quite long with many subplots, this story of a middle-aged man's search for something to believe in has deeply touched me. The book is divided into several sections, each dealing with different aspects of the lives and choices made by the many characters in the novel from friends to relatives to persons who lived during the time and era being described. The saga spans the periods of years from the 1800s to present day and includes sociological, cultural, and historical perspectives.

In the first part of the story-- and the one that causes the significant conflict for the main character in the book-- the somewhat unsympathetic and unlikable narrator Caelum Quirk is an English teacher off tending to a dying aunt and his wife a part-time nurse at Columbine High School in Colorado at the time that the massacre of students takes place there in April, 1999. (Though the facts of the rampage are presented in the context of fiction, this is an incredibly moving section of the book.) His wife Maureen (Mo) cannot recover from surviving that terrible day and suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. Unable to function, she withdraws and finds solace in illegally obtained prescription drugs. Without going further to convey more plot details, suffice to say that the marriage falters and Caelum is forced to deal with many issues, not the least of which is confounded when historical documents and old letters belonging to his aunt reveal a family history contrary to what he thought he knew.

Part mystery, part expose, the story of Caelum's quest to find out the truth of himself and his family will urge the reader forward until the very last page is turned. This is a novel that draws one in and never lets go; the search for hope and faith, the profound wish that life has meaning and that there is a purpose for it all -- the good or the evil.

Other reviewers have remarked that the plethora of extraneous and/or historical information, the author's lengthy descriptions of certain aspects of the Civil War, and the dissertation written by one of the characters that he included might be off-putting, but I found the detail and description interesting. This is a saga that spans several generations and involves keeping straight many characters and their relationships to each other. There are many details to keep in mind and thus, I just couldn't put it down so as not to get too confused.

Highly recommended. This is one to remember long after the last page is turned.
NeedyBookLover avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 16 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
From the moving dedication to his mother to the final page, Wally Lamb brings you into the world of Caelum Quirk. This book at times caused tears, smiles, and sighs of understanding. Lamb may struggle with his writing but on the page it flows effortlessly. Caelum is a man at sea. He must find a way to support and believe in his wife who is suffering from acute PTSD, find a connection to the family he separated himself from, and find himself.

I have always loved Lamb's writing and never thought he could surpass "I Know This Much is True". I am so happy to say that he did.
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 13 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This book was an excellent story. So well written and I found it very hard to put down. The story is so powerful and deals with some very heart wrenching events. I felt so concerned for the characters and all the things that were thrown at each of them. A masterpiece.
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 11 more book reviews
Not up top this author's usual brilliance. Slow in the beginning and not exactly about Columbine...except in a sideways manner. You really have to get into the first 200 pages before anything relating to that comes up. Seems a lot more about his marriage difficulties. I couldn't wait for this book to get to me, and was sorely disappointed. Accidentally left it on a plane, and only had 100 pages left. Not worth re-ordering or even finishing the book. No great loss.
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 75 more book reviews
When I bought this book I left it sitting on my bookshelf for months before I read it. I was excited that Wally Lamb finally had a new book but scared that it wouldn't live up to my expectations. Unfortunately, my fears were realized in the second half of the book. While the first half of the book is engaging and exciting, in the second half he starts using long chapters to share the protagonist's ancestors' letters and life stories. I was so bored that I wanted to skip right past them but I kep...more When I bought this book I left it sitting on my bookshelf for months before I read it. I was excited that Wally Lamb finally had a new book but scared that it wouldn't live up to my expectations. Unfortunately, my fears were realized in the second half of the book. While the first half of the book is engaging and exciting, in the second half he starts using long chapters to share the protagonist's ancestors' letters and life stories. I was so bored that I wanted to skip right past them but I kept pushing through. Then later, the series of events started to feel like a Jerry Springer episode and that's when he lost me. This book had such great potential but he threw the end out the window. I'll give future works by Lamb a chance, but not with the same excitement that I embraced this one with.
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 25 more book reviews
I loved this book at the beginning quarter of the story and the last quarter of the story. The 50% in between was very difficult to get through and at times hard to keep the characters from the past straight. Overall, I love Wally Lamb's writing and was fascinated by his ability to apply the believable fictional characters to very real and poignant recent world events of the past. Worth the effort to get to that last page!!
sewingnancyl avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 78 more book reviews
This book follows the story of a married couple, teachers at Columbine during the horrific shooting. The couple is fictional, but the story uses real names and instances to begin the journey of their life after the shooting.

Wonderful read!
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 25 more book reviews
I really enjoyed this book and am a big Wally Lamb fan. Though it's fiction it reads as non-fiction a lot of the times, especially when dealing with the Columbine story line. I thought some of the story lines were a little drawn out and a condensed version of this book would have been just as great but there is no doubt that you really get to know the characters.
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on
This book follows a married couple's up and downs in their marriage...and how their lives are torn apart when one of them survives the Columbine High School tragedy. I love all of Wally Lamb's books and this one is no exception. Not nearly as great as I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE but still well worth a read.
themommie avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 2 more book reviews
Great book, would highly reccommend it. I loved the characters. It makes u cry, laugh and feel for the characters.
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 6 more book reviews
This books was painful to read at times and yet riveting. The depictions of mental health and marriage and interpersonal relationships are all well illustrated and I always forget that I am reading a book written by a man - the characters and situations are so emotionally charged and damaged -but quiet and introspective...
IntrepidOne avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 157 more book reviews
I love Wally Lamb's character development. He is brilliant in the way that you not only come to know his characters, but also to a degree become them. No one can do this quite the same as Wally Lamb, he's a master.
The first half of this book had me flying through it and I just could not put it down. Then, I hit a snag. Honestly, I started skimming several pages at a time once I reached the sub-plots and side stories. Just now, a little short of 200 pages from finishing this behemoth I am putting it down for the last time. What started as intense desire to read more and faster has now turned into apathy. There's just too much going on and my life is complicated enough without having to carry around a 5 pound book that I stopped caring about a couple hundred pages ago.
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on
Though not as compelling as his other two books, I thoroughly enjoyed "The Hour I First Believed." Using fictional characters immersed in a very real tragedy was interesting and sucked me into their lives. There were little twists in the plot that I didn't see coming, which I love, and kept me reading far too late into the night. It was nearly a relief to be done with the book, so I could return to my normal sleep schedule! Wally Lamb is an incredible author not to be missed.
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 18 more book reviews
Very good book. Very deep and sometimes confusing. But worth the effort to get through the horror, and embrace the love.
Story of a couple who live through the horror of a mass murder, and the aftermath.
Wally Lamb did well, again.
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 234 more book reviews
Although the book was tied up neatly at the conclusion, I felt it was too long and encompassed too many stories. I skipped through a chapter or two that was entirely on family history and tried to focus more on the happenings of Caelum and his wife Maureen. I thought the book would be more about Columbine, but instead it seemed to focus on the past and how Caelum's legacy impacted his present and future life.

This is not a book I liked well, but I think the author is truly a good storyteller. It was just too long for me, and in my humble opinion covered too many life spans and trials and tribulations to make it really enjoyable for me.
getinmybellykelly avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on
Honestly, I went into reading this book thinking that it was going to be just about Columbine and the aftermath. That's the truth of about the first half. After that, although it still involves the same main characters, it goes off on quite a tangent. In the end, things really do come together and you realize how all of the stories are interconnected, but it took a good chunk of reading to get there. The book dragged for me quite a bit in the middle because it turns into sort of historical fiction at times but I thought the ending was really beautiful. All in all, I think it could have been a bit shorter but is worth reading if you can handle long books. :)
noisynora avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 130 more book reviews
I love Wally Lamb, and was very excited to get this book - FINALLY!! You really get into the characters, and just when you think you are figuring things out . . . another twist comes into play. That being said - this book is a little long and drawn out. I couldn't help but think (just a little bit) that there were just things added to the story to make it longer . . . I don't know, maybe it was just me. However, great book, especially if you're a Lamb fan - worth the read. P.S. - the subject matter of this book is about the Columbine High School incident. Very well researched, accurate, "real" and tastefully done.
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 29 more book reviews
Interesting book tied to real history. Lamb really paints a clear picture of each character. So much going on that I had to gobble it up! Love this writer so very much and this is a wonderful book.
jade19721 avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 115 more book reviews
You know those books that you get that you enjoy so much that you hate for them to end. This is one of them. I can't say enough abouthow much I love his books. I think he is a fantastic writer. I love the way that he makes you think about things and to question everything you have ever believed in before. I also love the way that he can drop a bombshell in his novels and you never even see it coming. There is no indication, no hint, just a 3 word paragraph that stuns you into silence for several minutes. You have to drop the book, shake your head, and say, "I did not see that coming".
PamelaH avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 90 more book reviews
Wally Lamb outdid himself with this incredible book. I'm not good enough with words to be able to explain the story without writing a long dissertation, let's just say I'm very impressed. Columbine victims, eastern Connecticut roots, women's prisons... Some of the different branches of the story were very creative, also, such as the family genealogy that comes into play later in the story. Wow Wally! Good read!!
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 15 more book reviews
An intense story that weaves many characters together, while raising a multitude of issues in an unexpected and fascinating way.
general avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 20 more book reviews
Loved it
gamaw avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 99 more book reviews
This book is a study in what PTSD can do to an individual as well as family members. It is also a book of redemption, forgiveness and healing, even if not in the traditional sense. Loved it!
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 412 more book reviews
I wanted to love this. I really did. But this novel suffered from lack of editing. There are way too many extraneous things thrown in, to the point where sections left me skimming, and that is just unexusable. If he had not strayed, this would have been a good book, but alas, I fear a flop. Wally Lamb, please return to your old brilliance next time around and all will be forgiven!!!!
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 379 more book reviews
This is a brilliant book that covers a great deal of ground emotionally and chronologically. It begins with a couple deeply affected by the Columbine shootings, and moves from there to the history of a family, addiction, and a long-held mystery.

Wally Lamb obviously learned a great deal from the female prisoners whose writing he mentored, and the incorporation of this experience into the novel is essential to the plot. He is unsurpassed in allowing his readers to know what the characters feel and the impact on their subsequent actions. I loved his previous books and this one is no exception. I only hope we don't have to wait so long before his next book is published. I will remember this book for a very long time.
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 8 more book reviews
Heavy in weight and thought.
Readnmachine avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 1439 more book reviews
This is one whopper of a book â 700+ pages â crammed with more themes than a magician's hat has rabbits: post-traumatic stress, chaos theory, classic mythology, physical and spiritual labyrinths, family history, substance abuse, blood sacrifice, what makes a marriage, the American penal system, race relations, the search for spiritual peace, a decades-old mystery, and the recurrent and inexplicable appearance of praying mantis images.

In less skilled hands, it would be a hot mess. It's to Lamb's credit that he manages to keep it all together and keep it readable, though at times when he pulls yet another rabbit out of the hat, the reader is hard-pressed to restrain a âwhat now?â groan.

Ultimately, by the end, the main character finds peace when he realizes that life, like a labyrinth, is âbaffling on the ground [but] begins to make sense when you can begin to rise above it.â

It's a big, chewy, thoughtful book with a lot to consider. Don't expect to polish this one off over a weekend, and don't expect to get its questions out of your mind quickly.
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 25 more book reviews
Another great Wally Lamb
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 81 more book reviews
I have not read Wally Lamb before and I don't plan to again. I thought this book was boring and took forever to come to the climax. Obviously Mr. Lamb has done his research and I did appreciate the detail he went to on Columbine but the rest was awful. The main character is so self absorbed he can't begin to be interesting. Yuck, yuck and yuck.
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on
Excellent book by Wally Lamb. Finished it in 4 days.
rfdudley avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 75 more book reviews
This book is about a married couple; the wife of whom is a teacher at Columbine High School. As a result of her experience she suffers greatly from post traumatic stress disorder. She and her husband both have to learn to cope with this. Other tragedies befall them. The husband's beloved deceased aunt leaves behind a history of family letters. A boarder living at the husband's home discovers the letter and writes a dissertation through which the husband learns a great deal about his family history. It becomes sort of a book within a book. Most of the book is written from the husband's perspective and how he learns to cope with things and ultimately learns to believe in hope. I enjoyed the book although I think it was a bit too long. I am impressed with Wally Lamb's writing ability.
pumpkin41 avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 10 more book reviews
Love Wally Lamb's books! I think this one was my favorite!
calevanik avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 31 more book reviews
After reading Wally Lamb's last 2 books I could't wait to receive this one. When it came the size was a little daunting, but as I got started I found the pages were flying by. He is such a talented author that you don't realize how much you've covered until you put it down. Unfortunately I don't think this book stands up to his first two. The subject is just as somber and he does a wonderful job of really getting the reader into the heads of his characters. While reading this book I was captured by all that was going on. However upon finishing it, in retrospect, I found it to be a little too much for one book to cover. There were just so many issues being covered and each one struggles to be the priority. This author does a great job of looking at the whole of a person's life to explain thier current psychological state, bt I think he may have gone just a little overboard this time. In addition he took a very serious nonfiction topic and by 3/4 of the way through he almost minimized it's importance. It's worth the read, but sadly does not compare to his previous work.
dolphingirl24416 avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 21 more book reviews
Loved it! Could not put the book down! only took me one day to read it! Wally Lamb's best book so far....................MUST READ!
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 5 more book reviews
I enjoyed this book. It was moving and poignant.
It did seem to go on..and on..and on...but that's a Wally Lamb book for you.
twosey avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 52 more book reviews
While the story is interesting and compelling, it is just too long. The end wraps up with a final sentance and, for me, it wasn't satisfying. After investing so much time and energy into this story, I found myself, wondering if that was it.
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on
I was pleaseantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. Everyone said it is not as good as his others so I approached it with no expectations. I loved it!
fullybooked avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 61 more book reviews
As proved by his previous works, Lamb is a well developed author. However, this recent book was slightly disappointing to me as I felt it bogged down too much with his wife's PTSD which was caused by being on location during the Columbine tragedy. Certainly a worthwhile read, though.
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 4 more book reviews
Great read!
reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 3 more book reviews
Wally Lamb has done it again!! Great book!
skiley avatar reviewed The Hour I First Believed on + 21 more book reviews
Wally Lamb is dependably rich and readable.