We are Water by Wally Lamb

A Free Press book review of the implosion of an American family.

  • May. 7, 2015 9:00 a.m.

Submitted by Adrienne Raczki

Having just finished this masterfully crafted novel I am saddened that it is over. The story unfolds as it is being narrated by many integral characters, each chapter illuminating a new facet of the growing story. We are introduced to Annie Oh, wife, mother and artist. A woman blackened by her tragic childhood, who uses her past to create her ‘Angry Art.’ The story pivots around Annie and her upcoming wedding to Viveca, the art dealer she ultimately leaves her psychologist husband for.

Set in New England and New York, this layered and complex novel melds together like a well-shuffled deck, each chapter weaving the yarn of the story into a beautiful tapestry. We watch the family evolve through divorce, gay marriage and childhood tragedy. Annie is painted as an insecure and hot-tempered mother, often cold and withdrawn. The readers will find themselves loving her for her flaws, in spite of her reckless destruction of her classic American family.

The characters are unique and relatable. Among them are Orion Oh, Annie’s doting and distracted husband, Marissa Oh, her struggling actress daughter; and don’t be surprised if you can even find sympathy for cousin Kent, an instrumental and dislikeable cog in the machine that is Annie Oh. Wally Lamb designs characters that feel tangible and human, textured and robust.

A most enjoyable and thought-provoking read, and the most reader-friendly of Lamb’s creations.