Book review: The Hour I First Believed

by Wally Lamb


Spoiler alert…

If there’s one word to describe this book, it’s “joyless.” After seven hundred pages of painful reminiscing about tragic deaths, troubled teens, Columbine, and depression, the main character reaches a solemn conclusion about life and it’s one hope. Life’s redeeming quality is an enduring hope for a better future.

Caelum, Wally’s first-person character, struggles to understand. “God: big G, little g? Buddha? Allah? The Holy Trinity? Is god the DNA we bring forth? The genes that mutate on the cliff’s edge of chaos? Beats me.” Caelum slides not-so-gently into old age by book’s end, nearly everything taken from him, and finally reaches acceptance.

Leave this book to the psychologists; it’s a downer. I wouldn’t review it except that it did resonate with me in one way. For some, the only imaginable “better future” is heaven. Some say that my brand of Christianity and its focus on our earthly life serves only to rob others of faith. Heaven is a dream held out to all who find themselves buried under life’s hopelessness. Do we truly need our dreams of heaven, and if so, am I performing a disservice by promoting the humanitarian side of Christianity over the supernatural? Am I stealing the joy of the next life from believers in the same way Wally steals our joy in this life?

I confess, it sometimes troubles me.

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