By Sue Corbett Alex Tresniowski Caroline Leavitt JOANNA POWELL
December 01, 2008 12:00 PM

THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED
by Wally Lamb |

REVIEWED BY SUE CORBETT

NOVEL

This much is true: Oprah fave Wally Lamb’s third novel offers something for everyone. Inspired by the ’99 killings at Columbine High School, it has sex, violence, mystery and the overdose of heartbreak his fans expect. Teacher Caelum Quirk is out of town when the two teens open fire, but his wife—the school nurse—hears all from her hiding spot in a library cabinet. Her healing could easily carry a novel, yet Lamb veers into a meandering family saga as well. The kitchen-sink approach slows momentum and turns an unspeakable tragedy into just one more bad thing that happens to Quirk. A skilled stylist, Lamb might have been able to join the threads with a different narrator. But his thrice-married rage-prone hero is hard to like, and the dark secrets he unearths ultimately bury his wife’s poignant story under a heavy blanket of melodrama.

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