We Are Water is a work of fiction by Wally Lamb. It is a story that focuses on how families cope after tragedy and big life changes. Lamb effortlessly weaves together the themes of tragedy, hope, love and redemption to create a compelling story. The story is told from the perspective of each member of the Oh family: Annie, Orion, Ariane, Andrew, and Mariska. The alternating narratives frame similar events skewed to each person’s differing point of view.
The story begins with the matriarch of the Oh family, Annie, picking out her wedding dress. However, this is no flashback. Annie has left Orion, her husband of 27 years, to marry a woman, Viveca. We quickly discover how the two met and fell in love and how Annie’s respective family feels about her new relationship. We are also introduced to bits and pieces of Annie’s past. This includes hints at a childhood trauma, her life in a foster home and how she met Orion. The narrative then jumps to Orion’s present point of view where he is on his way to Cape Cod to mull over the current events of his life. We learn about his troubled past and how these issues played into his life as an adult.
The children’s points of view add a new dimension to the alternating narrative of husband and wife. Their points of view allow a child’s view of their parent’s history which allows for a less biased story but also maybe a less reliable story given their ages and memories.
This is a story of a family who has everything change when their wife/mother falls in love with a woman. It is a story of a family where each member is harboring painful secrets that linger under their day to day lives. When these secrets are finally unburdened, the family dynamic is shaken to its core.
The back and forth narrative keeps the story interesting and fast paced. Each character is carefully crafted and feels real on the page. When the climax of the story hits it is mostly unexpected and you will be clamoring to get to the last page.