Tag Archives: books

She’s Come Undone, by Wally Lamb: a review


Note to FTC: In exchange for reviewing this book I received the pleasure of reading the book, nothing more.

One of the best books I’ve ever read, She’s Come Undone, by Wally Lamb, published in 1992, lands 5+ stars. It was an Oprah’s Book Club choice. Twice. I don’t know what took me so long to discover the book, and the author, but I’m glad I finally did.

As a writer I tend to study the story I’m reading, sometimes unconsciously, (which can make for an unenjoyable experience if I’m not careful to stop studying long enough to just read). The first thing I usually notice, or look for, is foreshadowing. Often I guess correctly where this foreshadowing is and what’s going to happen next because of that event. This is when I know I have an “okay” book in hand, rather than a “knock-em-dead” book. I want to be surprised, shocked even, by the twists and turns in a story, I don’t want to feel so certain I know what the ending will read like.

But with She’s Come Undone the foreshadowing, was not the first thing I noticed, (though I did find it and guessed correctly in a couple of instances but not most). No, the first thing I noticed, as a writer, is that Wally Lamb offers very little in the way of description, and yet we inherently know not only what the characters look like but who they are – they’re 3-D people, they feel real. “How did he do that?” we writers want to know. The good news is it’s easy to discover that he shows us what’s happening by – guess – telling us exactly that: what’s happening, not what color the kitchen counter Dolores throws a towel on is but what she knocks over with that towel. Voilà: there is the picture in our mind, he need go no further with that description, he can simply go on telling us her next action. And the dialogue? You just can’t get any better than this. So, as a writer, I highly recommend reading and studying She’s Come Undone.

I also highly recommend She’s Come Undone as a reader. The story, about a girl/woman, Dolores Price, dealing with depression and repressed feelings, is so eerily like my own (early) life it scared me. (Dolores’s greatest fear, which I won’t tell you so as not to spoil the story), is my greatest fear, and for the very same reason, though it takes her years to recognize the fear (it did me too). The grip Mr. Lamb has on the human psyche is amazing but what astounded me more was the fact that, despite being a man, he got the feelings of this depressed girl/woman down-pat! And I’ve never before paid attention to whether the main character is a man written by a woman or vice-versa, it’s simply either a good story or it isn’t. But with this one I couldn’t help it because…..well, you’ll have to read the book to understand what I mean.

I was also pleasantly surprised to learn about “other things” that happened in the 60s and 70s, things aside from the moon landing and Kennedy’s death. So much news is woven into this story that it could easily be a terrific history book for teenagers.

I don’t want to digress – I believe the main point of She’s Come Undone is to show us the damage that judging others can do, how it can hurt people well beyond the day they were assaulted, verbally or otherwise, by their peers, and even by so-called responsible adults – it can take hold, grow and last for years and years, making everything in the victim’s life a nightmare of fear. It’s sad, yes, very sad, but the book isn’t a depressing one, it’s thoughtful and it’s hopeful, it really made me think about all the kids, and adults, in this world who are constantly picked on, bullied, and how they make it through life without a breakdown. Many of them don’t.

She’s Come Undone also has several gut-busting belly laugh moments sprinkled throughout which greatly helped ease the seriousness of the subject enough to help us, the reader, read on, knowing we weren’t being led to a “bucket-full-of-tears” slaughter.

Run out and get She’s Come Undone today. You’re going to love Dolores, I promise. Click here to go to my bookshelf and read short reviews of other books I’ve read this year.

What book stands out as one of your greatest discoveries? What made it so great?

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The Accursed world of MaddAddam forced Doctor Sleep to embark upon a Transatlantic journey of The Hot Country to deliver Life After Life to The Woman Upstairs OR The Best Reads of 2013

Best of 2013
Image by Deanna Schrayer

The New York Times recently published their annual Most Notable Books of the year. I must say they chose well. 2013 has been a fantastic year for reading! Of course perusing their list resulted in too many more “to be read” titles added to my reading list.

At least half the books I read this year were actually published in 2013 (usually I tend to read more classics or older books). Here are twenty of my favorite reads of 2013, (in no particular order), most, but not all, published this year. Be sure to browse my bookshelf for short reviews of these and others.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? What was your favorite read this year?   

MaddAddam, by Margaret Atwood 

Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King 

Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson 

The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud 

Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann 

Transatlantic, by Colum McCann 

This Side of Brightness, by Colum McCann

The Accursed, by Joyce Carol Oates 

Ghosting, by Kirby Gann

The Liar’s Club, a memoir, by Mary Karr 

Lit, a memoir, by Mary Karr 

Live by Night, by Dennis Lehane 

Deadlock, by James Scott Bell 

Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson; indeed, her whole series on Jackson Brodie 

The House of the Seven Gables, by Nathaniel Hawthorne 

The Hot Country, by Robert Olen Butler 

Just Kids, a memoir by Patti Smith 

The Night in Question: Stories, by Tobias Wolff 

The Best American Short Stories of 2012  ~ about halfway with this one now, excellent stories!

The Invisibles, by Hugh Sheehy ~ also about halfway with this one, outstanding work!

Whew, that’s a lot of links! 🙂 

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Got books? Time to celebrate! #reading #book lovers day

book love 1

If you’re a habitual reader, (like I am), then today is your day to celebrate – it’s Book Lovers Day! If you don’t read much but wish you did, today is the perfect day to curl up with a good book and start forming the healthy habit of becoming a regular reader. Reading is known to not only improve brain function but also help us in even more positive ways.

Many people claim they have no time to read; this is something I’ve never understood. What about all those minutes, (which build into hours), you’re sitting at a red light and wishing it would hurry up and turn green? What’s your rush anyway? And those of you who use public transportation have even greater opportunity for time to read. You aren’t going to get to your destination any faster, so why not use that blessing of time [to yourself] to read? Just keep a book, or, if you’re an eBook reader, your tablet, with you at all times and you’re set! And that’s just one chance. Be aware of how you spend your free time and you’ll soon find ample opportunities to read, read, read.

“My Alma mater was books, a good library… I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.”  Malcolm X

Although I have been lazy about updating my bookshelf lately, I have read several books since the last update in August. Here are a few of the best:

The Hot Country, Robert Olen Butler ~ Rated 5 There is a reason Robert Olen Butler’s work has won the Pulitzer Prize. The Hot Country, a Christopher Marlow Cobb thriller, is one of his best yet!

This Side of Brightness, by Colum McCann ~ Rated 4.5 I love how McCann takes us into a world most people never even get a glimpse of, and he shows us precisely how “full” that world is. The characters here are especially compelling.

Odd Apocalypse, Dean Koontz ~ Rated 5 It’s Dean Koontz, it’s Odd Thomas, what more could you ask for? Superb work!

I would be hard-pressed to choose a favorite read from 2013 as I’ve had the pleasure of reading several great stories. Check out my bookshelf for short reviews. What is the best book you’ve read this year? Do you have any helpful hints for those who are having difficulty finding time to read? I hope you’ll share your secrets with us! Have a beautiful and blessed Book Lovers Day!

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