She’s Come Undone

25 03 2009
The cover for the book "She's Come Undone"

The cover for the book "She's Come Undone"

Author: Wally Lamb

Page: 480

Published: 1992

ISBN: 9780671003753

“Mine is a story of craving; an unreliable account of lusts and troubles that began, somehow, in 1956 on the day our free television was delivered.”

First published on August 24 1992, it was chosen as an Oprah’s Book Club selection in January 1997. An engaging novel from the first page: author Wally Lamb take us through a life of discovery, torment and illness through the eyes of the narrator Dolores Price; a troubled young woman who grew up in a seemingly normal household in New England.

The first lines immediately coax you towards this tale, and as you can see, it all begins with a new television set. Five year old Dolores’ father Tony Price hopes it will distract Dolores’ mother, Bernice, from his infidelity and distract Dolores from her parents’ constant fighting.  So begins the tale from the twisted mind of this amazing writer as we explore Dolores’ new found imagination and fascination with the television.  The Price family soon finds out that a new baby is on the way; to Bernice this is a way to recapture her husband’s love, and she is devastated when the baby, Anthony Jr., dies.  The family then gets dragged down by depression, unemployment, divorce,  ultimately culminating in Bernice being sent to a mental institution and Dolores to live with her Grandmother.

Skipping ahead a few years, Dolores is now 13 years old and begins to hit more trivial hitches in her life. Having no friends at the Catholic school she attends, she begins to take joy in watching soaps.  When new tenants Jack and Rita Speight move in upstairs, not only does the tone and style of the novel change, but the reader feels somewhat enthralled by the new additions.  Jack, a charismatic radio disc jockey, begins to give Dolores attention by picking her up from school and flirting with her.  One day he takes Dolores out to a deserted area after school and savagely rapes her.  This event sends worlds spiralling together and ultimately creating the guilt that will affect Dolores’ life.

High school is the next move in Dolores Price’s life. Still traumatized by the rape, she picks up weight. Her only comfort, besides food, are her mother and Mr Pucci, her gay (or so we find out later) guidance counsellor.  Purposely failing her high school exams, Dolores seems adamant to make her life difficult.  Her mother on the other hand wants nothing but for her to go to college and so writes her college essays for her. When Dolores is accepted to Merton College, she finds herself writing letters to her future roommate Kippy Strednicki; making up a fictitious life of intricate tales of what seems to be the life Dolores wants.

When her mother is suddenly killed by a truck driver, Dolores is adamant to make her mother proud.  Sexuality, dirty polaroids, marriage, mental institutions and achievement all play a role in Dolores’ destiny and challenge of figuring out who she is.

Its hard to view this book holistically and describing the plot is not only an intricate process but also a rather difficult one, as Lamb is a rather complicated genius. I only want to give you a taste of what Dolores has to face and how each event stays with her haunting her every future step. I hope you can fogive me for only taking you half way through the plot, but with a male writer writing this woman’s mind is rather fascinating and scary.

This was my book of the month, really.  Fantastic and worth every bit of complication and head-scratching.  Lamb captures a woman’s mind in ways most men should envy.  He is great. At once a fragile girl and a hard-edged cynic, so tough to love yet so inimitably lovable, the character of Dolores is as poignantly real as our own imperfections. She’s Come Undone includes a promise that you will never forget Dolores Price.

10 out of 10… (I know I never give this).

Buy She’s Come Undone softcover

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2 responses

19 08 2009
Jenni

This is one of my favorite books. A few times a year, I’ll pick it up, open at any page, and read it to the end. I only wish it were longer. I’ve read it so many times, half the binding has fallen apart.

Anyway, just felt like saying hi. Was leafing through the various cover art for the book and came across the excellent review!

27 03 2010
claireonbooks

This is a fantastic book. It’s rare to find a narrative voice as memorable as that of Dolores Price, and when you realise the writer is someone of the opposite gender, it’s even more impressive. Lamb captures the inner psyche of this broken child so exquisitely, you find yourself rooting for her even as you want to slap her for being so self-destructive.

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