The Hour I First Believed: A Novel (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Quirk lived his whole life in the small Connecticut enclave of Three Rivers, a
place rich in family history and in secrets he does not suspect. It is an area
he knows well and where he is well known. 
When his rage over his wife Maureen’s infidelity brings him to a rash
act, his hometown is no longer a welcoming comfort but a community where he
lacks even a shred of anonymity. Bent on saving their marriage, the high school
teacher and his wife bid his aunt a fond farewell and move to Littleton Colorado
with their two dogs for a fresh start. 
They find employment at Columbine High School, Maureen as a nurse and
Caelum teaching literature.  In April of
1999 Caelum is called back to Connecticut where his aunt has suffered a
stroke.  While he is at the other end of
the country, two angry young men walk in their high school bent on
killing.  Maureen, hidden in a cabinet,
hears the pleading of students, the explosion of gunfire, every minute
expecting to be found and executed. 
Crouching in that cabinet waiting for death, surrounded by the sounds of
carnage, does something profound and damaging to Maureen.  She emerges a different woman; frightened,
suffering from PTSD, struggling to regain her sense of self.  Once again they make a cross country trek,
back to Three Rivers Connecticut, to the farm that has been in Caelum’s family
for generations and is his heritage, seeking a safe shelter for Maureen to
heal.  Instead of finding a haven,
tragedy stalks them, shattering their lives again.  Age old secrets will come to light, showing
that rage and injustice have long been a part of the landscape. Caelum’s family
was instrumental in establishing a prison for women in Three Rivers by their
farm, it will play into the story too. 
Wally Lamb spent time teaching writing at York Correctional Institution
and Connecticut's State Farm For Women. 
He uses this experience to inform his writing about the fictional Quirk
Correctional Institution.  The Hour I First Believed is an
ambitious book, taking on such themes as rage, violence, injustice, and
ultimately a belief in a higher power or greater good.  Columbine is only one part of the story.  Lamb chooses to tell that part through the
experiences of the survivors, only briefly touching on the rage of the
killers.  Most of the story deals with
the aftermath.  If you would like to read
a book that deals more with the stresses that might cause a high school to
erupt in violence, read Nineteen
by Jodi Picoult and One Mississippi by Mark
Childress.  I highly recommend both titles
for anyone with children or involved in education. While The Hour I First Believed  does tell the story of the Columbine massacre, it is more the story of a
man and woman trying to find meaning in their lives and peace with their

— Deon Stonehouse


New York Times Bestseller

The profound and compelling story of a personal quest for meaning and faith from Wally Lamb, #1 New York Times bestselling author of She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True

“The beauty of The Hour I First Believed, a soaring novel as amazingly graceful as the classic hymn that provides the title, is that Lamb never loses sight of the spark of human resilience. . . . Lamb’s wonderful novel offers us the promise and power of hope.”
Miami Herald

When 47-year-old high school teacher Caelum Quirk and his younger wife, Maureen, a school nurse, move to Littleton, Colorado, they both get jobs at Columbine High School. In April 1999, Caelum returns home to Connecticut to be with his aunt who has just had a stroke. But Maureen finds herself in the school library at Columbine, cowering in a cabinet and expecting to be killed, as two vengeful students go on a murderous rampage. Miraculously she survives, but at a cost: she is unable to recover from the trauma. Caelum and Maureen flee Colorado and return to an illusion of safety at the Quirk family farm back east. But the effects of chaos are not so easily put right, and further tragedy ensues.

In The Hour I First Believed, Wally Lamb travels well beyond his earlier work and embodies in his fiction myth, psychology, family history stretching back many generations, and the questions of faith that lie at the heart of everyday life. The result is an extraordinary tour de force, at once a meditation on the human condition and an unflinching yet compassionate evocation of character.


About the Author

Wally Lamb is the author of five New York Times bestselling novels: She’s Come Undone, I Know This Much Is True, The Hour I First Believed, Wishin’ and Hopin’, and We Are Water. His first two works of fiction, She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, were both #1 New York Times bestsellers and selections of Oprah’s Book Club. Lamb edited Couldn’t Keep It to Myself, I’ll Fly Away, and You Don’t Know Me, three volumes of essays from students in his writing workshop at York Correctional Institution, a women’s prison in Connecticut, where he has been a volunteer facilitator for two decades. He lives in Connecticut and New York.

Praise For…

“Lamb . . . has delivered a tour de force, his best yet. A”
Entertainment Weekly

“A page-turner. . . . Lamb remains a storyteller at the top of his game.”
— Craig Wilson, USA Today

“Too compelling to put down . . . a richly textured story . . . moving, funny, and completely unpredictable.”
— Gail Pennington, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Every character is rendered with vivid, utterly convincing depth. . . . A heck of a page-turner.”
Dallas Morning News

“Lamb, a maestro of orchestrating emotion . . . knows how to make his fans’ hearts sing.”
— Corrie Pikul, Elle

“Wally Lamb is a remarkable talent.”
— Columbus Dispatch

“Lamb has crafted another affecting, engrossing tome about complicated, interesting characters.”
— Cherie Parker, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A soaring novel as amazingly graceful as the classic hymn that provides the title”
Miami Herald

“Lamb does an extraordinary job narrating some of the most terrifying tragedies of the past 10 epic journey. Grade: A.”
— Rocky Mountain News

“When you put Lamb’s newest novel down, it will be reluctantly. It’s that good.”
— Knoxville News-Sentinel
Product Details
ISBN: 9780060988432
ISBN-10: 0060988436
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publication Date: August 4th, 2009
Pages: 768
Language: English
Series: P.S.