Earlier this year I was introduced to Wally Lamb via the audio version of The Hour I First Believed. She’s Come Undone is an earlier work that was also chosen as an Oprah Book Club selection, and between the two, I want to gobble up everything Lamb has written.
She’s Come Undone follows Dolores Price – at first a young girl with the typical struggles of getting along with school mates and parents who don’t get along with each other, but who is eagerly awaiting the responsibility of being a big sister to her mom’s unborn child. When her mother miscarries and spirals into her own deep depression, Dolores becomes lost in her search for identity, love and acceptance.
When she’s raped by a neighbor it is more than 13-year old Dolores can handle, and she finds her source of comfort in food, eventually expanding to more than 250 pounds. Hitting rock bottom in the first quarter of college, Dolores finally has an angel who offers her the help that she needs to deal with years of unresolved trauma and loss. Even in this help, Dolores struggles with the ability to become completely well and so her story is far from over when she leaves her recovery.
Lamb is a brilliant character creator. Dolores seems as real to me as any person I have ever known. Despite her circumstances, she is anything but a victim and you’ll find yourself screaming at her with frustration over (what seem to be) obviously foolish choices.
What was most compelling to me about this story was how clearly it showed the horrible snowballing-impact of ignoring personal pain. When trauma is overlooked, and particularly when you add a tendency for depression or mental illness to the person’s psyche, the problem does not go away – it just gets bigger and manifests itself in other and more dangerous ways. It reminds me of something I’ve heard my pastor say (that I think I’ve quoted previously), “Time does not heal all wounds – time heals clean wounds. Wounds that are not cleaned fester until they boil over with infection and in doing so, create deeper scars.”
I don’t want to paint the picture that this is a totally depressing book [despite my penchant for the dark ;-)] – at times Lamb will have you laughing out loud. I particularly loved the answers from the women in Dolores’ Women’s Studies class to what they most wanted from life. (You’ll have to read to find out.)
She’s Come Undone is an intense character study that will not leave you alone.
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