Trusting the Author


I’m reading The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb. Love, love, love this book. (Don’t tell me how it ends–I’m not done yet!). At more than 700 pages, it’s quite a tale, involving the Columbine shootings, a couple of Katrina victims and myriad other real and imagined events. However, I constantly find myself turning the page to the next chapter and furrowing my brow as Lamb takes me off in a whole new direction. Sometimes, I want to fight the change. (What is he DOING??) But then I remember Lamb’s an author I can trust, and I turn myself over to him. I know I’m in capable story-telling hands. He’s going to take good care of me and I can relax.

Occasionally, though, I trust a writer and he (or she) betrays me. He leads me down a dark alley, where I’m clobbered by some miserable shift in the story that rewards me with nothing more than confusion or disappointment. I’ll rarely read that author again.

Non-writing friends have told me that I read books in a different way than they do. That’s probably true. If the writing is beautiful, I’ll often read a phrase over and over again. If the writer’s done something out of the ordinary, I’ll study how he did it. I’ll marvel at the depth of character he creates, as in Lamb’s case, or in the blending of fact and fiction, as in the case of Nancy Horan (Loving Frank), another book I’m currently reading.  

But I like nothing better than reading an author whom I trust to take me on a bumpy, wild, but ultimately rewarding ride. How about you? Do you ever get that “Why are you doing this to me??” feeling as you read. . . and do you trust enough to keep turning the pages? 



  1. Julie on December 15, 2008 at 1:55 am

    I haven’t read this book yet, although I picked it up and read the cover copy at Costco today because of your mention and several others.
    But … your question. I have one answer:
    Memoirs of a Geisha/Arthur Golden
    I have read a few that jumped the shark, though. It is jarring. And I often read the same way–I’ll rush through a section if I want to find out what happens, but then return and read several pages or a sentence over and over because it’s beautiful or foreshadowing, etc.
    I’m refining my agent query letter! Talk about nervewracking!

  2. Denise on December 15, 2008 at 11:46 am

    THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED is a perfect example of an author taking us on a ‘wild rewarding ride.’ The book was like one big puzzle at various points. I definitely kept wondering, “Where will this lead?!” But I definitely trusted Lamb to pull it all together for me in the end.
    Thanks to you, Diane, for the concept of ‘trust’ being such an important concept, particularly in a novel like Lamb’s. I had never really thought about trust being such an important factor in a novel, but it is. I think the biggest let-down in a story is when the author leaves loose or unsatisfying threads.
    After reading THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED, I wondered how long his original outline or synopsis was of this book. Lol! And the research that went into the writing of this book must have been astounding!

  3. Gina on December 15, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    Ohhhhhhhh what an adorable picture, Diane. How sweet is that. Made me smile real big!
    I am sooooooo happy you are loving HIFB. Let us know when you get done. That book was an emotional journey for me. I loved every minute of it. Took Wally Lamb 10 years to write that sucker. I’m glad he took his time. It was well worth the wait. I hope he tours near my area. Would love to meet him.
    Diane, I have family in Chatham too. Actually, I stay with my sister over the holidays and she lives in Franklin Lakes. We’re leaving on Saturday and staying for the week. Hope I make it thru the week without snow!!
    Hmm….your question….do I trust enough to keep turning the pages? That depends on the author I’m reading and how interested I might be in the story. This one is a tough one to answer. If it’s an author I love, yes, I keep turning the pages. If it’s a new author, then it depends. I will admit, there were times when I gave up on some authors.

  4. Margo on December 15, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    You all have me SO interested in Wally Lamb! I asked for I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE for X-mas and will read that 1st.
    When I read a novel that is up and down and pulls at my emotions, only to end 1 chapter and move in an entirely diff direction into the next, I usually have faith that the writer is doing this for a reason…I can only think of 1 book where I was very disappointed that the story did not pull together by the end and too many unanswered questions left me hanging. But who knows, maybe there will be a sequal (except this was several years ago and I have not seen or even heard of a sequal)…so for now, I just leave it as ‘not my fav book’.
    Diane, you never disappoint…I love how you have diff points of view…and I love when you travel back 10 or even 20 years between chapters…my emotions are pulled every which way and your words make me really ‘think’. I always know you have a purpose to the story and everything comes together by end.
    Gina, have a great vacation! Speaking of snow, we are to have 6 inches tomorrow…right now it’s only 5 degrees and windchill way below 0…brrrrrrrrrrrr, I’m glad I’m inside by the fire. (-O:

  5. Margo on December 15, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Diane, I found out recently that my good friend Laura and I read books differently! She’s been my friend for over 15 years and I just assumed we read things alike (for that matter, I assumed everyone read the same)…when I read, I can picture everything…the way the ocean waves crash against the rocks and shore, the colors of everything, the way the wind blows across the sand…I can even smell the salt breeze! She cannot picture these things, rather she understands their meaning…but she cannot visualize what I do. I was shocked but came to realize that maybe alot of people are like that and maybe I’m the one who is different when I read…It’s never occurred to me to ask anyone. But when I read the first thing I do is see the colors…the brown’s of ‘her’ hair, the various blue’s of the sea, etc…..then I feel the personality of the characters and their emotions…and I definitely feel empathy. I wonder how many other’s read like this, or how many read like my friend Laura. It’s an interesting subject.

  6. Gina on December 15, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    Yikes Margo! 5 degrees….brrrr – too cold for me.
    OH Margo, you are gonna love I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE. I can’t wait for you to read it.

  7. Margo on December 15, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    I can’t wait either Gina!…I’m almost certain my husband ordered it for me for X-mas…I had told him about it and a week later an Amazon package arrived and whatever was inside was gift wrapped…I know we’re not suppose to quess our X-mas gifts but I really hope it’s this book. (-O: I’d be happy with that and nothing else! Books are my fav gift.
    Gina, I’m really enjoying THE HOST…it’s not vampires but definitely other worldly. I’ve never read anything like it before…first 30 pages a little confusing but after that, I can’t put it down.

  8. Ashley on December 15, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    Margo, i was the same way with The Host.. after devouring the Twilight sage it was a big change to dredge through the first 50 pages or so- after that, couldn’t put it down until i finished it 😛 As for weather.. well, we’re ‘upto’ -46 C after windchill at times- but that would be normal for an Edmonton winter.
    Happy Holidays, everyone!

  9. Gina on December 15, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    Thanks for THE HOST update Margo and Ashley. I’ll add that to my wish list.

  10. Margo on December 16, 2008 at 12:52 am

    Ashley, I’m loving THE HOST now that I’m on page 70…still a long way to go (it’s a HUGE book with little print) and I’m reading this very slowly so I don’t miss anything…Gina, just remember that the first 30-50 pages is a little confusing but after that you won’t be able to stop…I’m reading constantly. (-O:
    Ashley, I’m used to this weather too…I grew up with bitter cold winters and lots of snow so this is normal for us…

  11. Diane Chamberlain on December 16, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Gina, don’t you love Chatham? I hate trying to find parking, but I love the charm of the place. So different from the Raleigh ‘burbs where I live.
    I finished THIFB last night. So good. The take-away message for me (probably different for others, and excuse my bluntness): “life sometimes sucks but we’re all in it together and we need to help each other get through it and find joy where we can” really resonated. There are certain passages I want to type up and tack to my wall to keep them in the forefront of my mind when the going gets rough. There’s so much in this book; it’s definitely a two-time read. I’m making a family chart of the characters for the next time I read it. I’d suggest this would be helpful to do AS you read it instead of waiting till you’re finished. What do those of you who’ve read it think about that idea? The family relationships get pretty complicated. There was only one place where I felt frustrated with the pace and thought the story needed some judicious cutting (in keeping with the theme of this blog post, I trusted Lamb down every other dark alley, but this particular one annoyed me because he was making me wait too darn long for the payoff.) I skimmed a few pages. When I reread the book, I’ll read those pages because I’m aware that something subtle may have been going on and my impatience got in the way of “getting it.” But other than that, the 700 pages flew by.
    Gotta run. We’re off to see my great niece’s fifth grade presentation on the Aztecs. So nice to be with family!

  12. Denise on December 16, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Diane, I think your take-away message is right on spot! What did you think of Dr. Patel? I loved her and her advice…definite keepers!
    I skimmed a few pages, too…I wonder if they were the same pages you skimmed.
    I think a family chart of characters is a good idea, although they all come together eventually.
    Margo, you must be salivating to read this book by now…lol!

  13. Gina on December 16, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    So glad you loved it Diane.
    Skimming pages? shame, shame, (lol)
    Love the idea of making a chart of characters. This book is definitely worth a re-read.
    I agree with you Denise, poor Margo must be chomping at the bits. Won’t be long now Margo. Christmas is almost here.

  14. brenda on December 16, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    I love Cathy Kelly-Margo=she writes somewhat like HIlderbrand…
    I can’t wait to read this Wally Lamb, but everytime I start to buy it, I know the library will contact me.
    I just finished a Memoir-written by a woman about her journey in helping her mother care for the DAD-Altzimers (spelling)…wow…Also, a book…Cancer is a B…h…(Can relate to that.) I am into nonfiction right now…read the one about the next First Lady-it was okay…
    Margo-it is cold and icy…a little snow each day-unusual for this time of year. My son=coming from the south on the 24th-will freeze. My daughter and her family arrive (by car) on the same day-depending on weather-they are used to much worse weather…they are about 350 miles away…My son flies of course…long, long trip. I can’t wait. My menu list is typed…recipes in Nana’s head…all the favorites. I will be in my element…the house will be filled with laughter and joy…the grandchildren are 9, 7 l/2 and 3 l/2-little blonde-haired angel girls…

  15. Margo on December 16, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    Gina and Denise, you are SO right!…I’m starting to chew my nails (which I NEVER do) to look at a Wally Lamb book!…my husband made me promise not to look at any books or buy any till after X-mas…can you imagine how hard that is for me!!!!!…all because I told him about a new author I’ve never read that Diane and my computer friends (all of you!) recommended to me…ahhhhhhhhh, this definitely makes me suspect that Gary must have gotten 1 of the Lamb books for me (don’t you agree?)…well anyway, I HAVE to finish THE HOST before I start a new book anyway but this waiting is awful. I can hardly wait to get my hands on 1 of these books and read the first paragraph…sigh…

  16. Margo on December 16, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    Brenda…if Cathy Kelly writes anything like E Hilderbrand then I know I would enjoy her! I think it was Denise who said she likes her alot too. I’ll see what Santa brings in the form of books and then make a trip to Border’s after X-mas for some of these authors all of you have talked about. Isn’t it absolutely exciting when you hear of a new author that everyone says is fantastic!…it’s like discovering a new kind of food or candy that you find you can’t live without and wonder how you ever did!
    Back to THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED…Brenda, isn’t it hard for you to wait on the library?…from everyone else’s comments it sounds like a keeper and a great 1 to re-read!
    I’ve made a list of characters before…I did it with THE STAND…glad to know the new W. Lamb will need a list so I can start at the beginning…I wonder if THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED will need a list……..
    Brenda, I’m so excited for your holiday with all your children and grandchildren…sounds like you are a fabulous cook!…I can almost smell the aromas of your cooking thru the computer!

  17. Denise on December 16, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    I have not read Hilderbrand but I’m planning to do so soon. Margo, I’ve read 4 of Cathy Kelly’s books. I think I liked PAST SECRETS and BEST OF FRIENDS best. I can’t think of the title of the newest, but I have an advanced copy of it. Another newer Irish author is Anna McPartlin. I read her PACK UP THE MOON and need to read her latest, APART FROM THE CROWD, which I hear is good.
    Margo, sounds like Gary bought you more than one book or he wouldn’t be so afraid of you buying something he already bought. Lol!

  18. Margo on December 17, 2008 at 12:48 am

    Denise, I think your right…Gary is being sneaky but he knows books are my fav thing.
    I really like E. Hilderbrand…she lives on Nantucket Island and all her books take place there. She has her own style of writing and they are usually all very fast moving. My 2 favorites of hers were THE BLUE BISTRO and NANTUCKET NIGHTS.

  19. Alexandra Sokoloff on December 17, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    That really should be up for cutest photo of the year, D.
    Here’s my recent example for you. I had the experience of reading a REALLY great thriller last week. I was riveted until about 3/4 of the way through, but then I could feel myself getting worried.
    This was a mystery, although written much more as an adrenaline-based thriller than as an intellectual puzzle, but there was a genuine mystery about who in this small town was the killer. Now, at this point, I’d figured out who the killer MUST be, because it’s my job, you know – but the problem was, that person made no psychological sense as the killer. So I was getting uncomfortable as I read on, because I had this sinking feeling that the author, who had been so completely true to the story world and characters so far, was going to make that particular person the killer, when I couldn’t see any way of making that happen in any realistic way.
    And sure enough – that person turned out to be the killer, and it DIDN’T make any sense, and the climax and epilogue of what had been a really wonderful book was ruined by the author going through pages of painful and convoluted exposition about why this person was the killer.
    Totally unbelievable and embarrassingly bad.
    It was a huge betrayal for me because of just what you say – trust. I had trusted the author for so long, and committed completely to the story and the characters, – only to feel so abandoned in the end.

  20. Diane Chamberlain on December 17, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    Oh Alex, that IS a good example. Especially in any sort of who-dunnit, the “who” has to turn out to be a surprise and yet be completely believable as the culprit. (You did a great job of that in THE HARROWING, by the way!). Will you read that author again? Give him or her another chance?
    Thanks for the recommendation of the movie SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. We LOVED it!

  21. brenda on December 17, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    Margo-it is not hard to wait on the library-they get so many for me, and I read SO MANY…Now if it were Diane or Barbara…I’d run out and buy them..however, I want to support the library, so it will keep going…
    As to my food…menu…yes…they put in their favorites…one wants chicken and dumplings…several my cheesy/potato soup…my great spaghetti sauce…good enough to eat without the spaghetti…and of course, the traditional C’mas dinner-ham, turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes (made only with golden potatoes…) etc. etc. You can see we eat BIG over the holidays-the rest of the year-none of us eat much…we are healthy healthy healthy eaters…did I forget the request for pumpkin pie-homemade Crisco crust…and apple pie (I don’t like pie at all, but my mother-in-law-ex-back in the day-taught me to make the best crust…and of course, to carry on my MOTHER’S tradition…a big cake that says…to the KIDS (Mother’s birthday was C’mas EVE, and she had cakes for US…go figure…
    I am sure this is a time for good fellowship and food for all of you…I am excited…

  22. Margo on December 17, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    Brenda, your making me hungry for X-mas dinner! I hope you have a few days off from work PRIOR to the holiday…otherwise, how on earth would you have time to make all these wonderful foods for your family?…you are really amazing, you know it?…you work several jobs and still make time to cook all the favorites for your kids and grandkids. I’m sure they all just adore you.

  23. brenda on December 18, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    Margo, we work through the 23rd…the family arrives the 24th…oh well…I’ll make it-they’ll help me. I am sure they will also take down C’mas decorations for me-even the littlest one helps MOM/Nana…

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