For fans of Wally Lamb's first two books, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much is True, the wait for another Lamb novel is finally over. In The Hour I First Believed: A Novel (Harper), Lamb rewards his patient readers with another compelling tale driven by strong characters caught in the rushing torrent of fate. Narrator Caelum Quirk is a teacher married to the school nurse at Columbine High School. Back home on a family emergency in Connecticut, Quirk watches helplessly as CNN reports Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris's destructive rampage through the halls of the high school. His wife, Maureen, emerges from the library cabinet where she hid—listening to the two boys shoot their victims—a different woman. As her PTSD becomes more acute, the couple moves back to the family farm in Connecticut. Maureen waffles between recovery and stagnation, while Caelum obsesses on the shootings. His fixation leads him to meditations on and further research into PTSD, abuse, chaos theory, labyrinths, quests, and his own family history. Lamb's latest work explores the darker events of the last decade but reveals an undeniable sense of hope that pervades even the bleakest moments in American life.
Thu., Nov. 20, 7 p.m., 2008