Some time nearing the end of last year, I found myself suddenly falling apart emotionally— like an overstuffed soft taco, its entrails slipping out of its warm tortilla, oozing in between your fingers and unceremoniously falling onto the wax paper below with a loud and sad plop!
And I have Wally Lamb to thank.
The reason I am posting this now, is because one of his books was the reason why I started this blog. Because this particular book allowed me to finally (very unexpectedly) embrace my brokenness and run with it, full steam ahead, joyously ready to put my millions of pieces back together with all the tenderness that is love. I was filled with fear and fearless all the same.
And now here I am. Cracking myself open with you.
So without further ado…
**SPOILERS FOR NOVEL “We Are Water” AHEAD**
Dear Mr. Lamb:
Not too long ago, I found myself scanning my bookshelf for some fresh pages to delve into. I had become endeared by mystery/horror novels then, and even had my go at a few Stephen King books. All of which lead me down a dark road of twists, turns, murders, the supernatural, and sometimes the scariest theme of them all: humanity. As I stared and stared at the handful of familiar spines I had already read (some even twice over), I realized that there was all but two books I had left to read: I Know This Much Is True and We Are Water.
The very first book I read of yours was, The Hour I First Believed, and the last but second book I read of yours was, She’s Come Undone. So, you can imagine my wariness to pick up another one of your pieces of art. Those two books had remained as fresh as ever in my mind, even though I read them years ago. Needless to say, I was afraid to drown in another raw and perfectly imperfect fictional world you had conjured up, that would more likely than not, allow me to see life itself from a whole new perspective — sobbing included. So I picked up I Know This Much Is True and begun my mental movie, fully prepared as much as underprepared for what would await me with your words that have always seemed to cut so beautifully deeply into my soul.
But then something funny happened.
Three chapters into I Know This Much Is True, sitting on my floor in my bedroom, my eyes suddenly darted to the pale blue colors of We Are Water’s spine, almost as if it had jumped out at me, or moved somehow. My attention had set right on it, with no particular thought running through my mind. I looked down at the book in my hands, already completely invested, but absentmindedly put it down for just a moment to pick up We Are Water.
I had semi recalled the synopsis, but not with much detail. I remembered reading the summary the first time when the book had been published in 2013. I had been too afraid to purchase it at the time, since my father had just unexpectedly left me and my family — for another woman, no less. It was too close to home, too soon, you understand? So I couldn’t bring myself to give it a chance then, no matter how excited I was that you had published another book. It unfortunately didn’t matter that you had become my favorite author; I was too wounded to put my admiration for your work first. But that Christmas of 2013, it was gifted to me as a surprise — a signed hard copy. I couldn’t wait to read it… one day.
And suddenly, here it was now, four years later, looking at me from my bookcase, beckoning me to try again. At that point, it had been almost six years since my father had left us — I had healed — so feeling brave, I picked it up again and refreshed my mind with the synopsis. Before I knew it, I Know This Much Is True was back on the shelf — not for a lack of interest, trust me. We Are Water had pulled me into her like a siren from the sea, and I relented.
Thus began my long journey with the Oh’s.
As I read on, I kept asking myself why I had put down one of your books in turn for another. It didn’t make much sense. I had never done such a thing before. But eventually, I stopped questioning my action, and just enjoyed the many ups and downs of the Oh family.
Which brings me to one of the reasons why I felt brave enough to write to you today…
I will admit that I was genuinely thrown when I had finally made the connection of Kent’s name to Annie’s aforementioned abuser. I’m not quite sure how I missed it at first, but when I realized that I was about to read about the inner workings of a pedophile, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to move forward with your book. But there’s this thing called morbid curiosity that kept egging me on. So when that curiosity trumped my apprehension, I continued reading.
Now would probably be a good time to mention — as I’m sure you may have foreseen — that I am a survivor of child molest myself. It was by an uncle (my father’s brother) whom lived with me and my family at the time. I was nine/ten years old when the abuse began. The abuse lasted all about a year, give or take, and my parents remained in the dark about it for many more to come. It wasn’t until I was about fourteen years old that I was able — with grand difficulty — to come forward to my mother. I had no desire to press charges, nor retaliate in any way; he had gone back to his home country and I had prayed that he’d stay there for the rest of his days so that I wouldn’t have to keep looking over my shoulder, or worse: pretend to be chummy with him at family functions. Alcohol had latched onto me like a friendly parasite as a coping mechanism for the majority of my youth up until my mid-twenties. I’ve been in and out of therapy for most of my life, until I was blessed with my current therapist, with whom I continue to share my experience with, since 2012. I am now twenty-seven years old. In all these years of healing, I’ve learned to understand that my abuser was ill. He too, had come from an ugly cycle of sexual abuse far beyond my comprehension. I’ve learned to hold true compassion for him, as well as let go of all my resentment and rage towards him. So when I was reading line after line of Kent’s experience, I was overwhelmed. But I understood Kent. It didn’t make his actions justifiable, but I understood. I held much respect for you, having the unequivocal courage to write from the view of such a complex character, as well as such a controversial topic. I hoped that it would reach out to survivors, such as myself, to somehow find at least some compassion for their experience. Much as I had done.
When I finally reached that dreadful moment in Kent’s chapter where he molested Annie for the first time in the bathtub, in a quick flash, I suddenly saw myself instead of Annie; vulnerable, defenseless, confused and terrified. I saw myself through Kent’s eyes, and I fell apart. Annie was seven… much younger… smaller than I had been. But age was no matter. Fear does not discriminate.
After pulling myself together, I was determined to read on. I wasn’t going to give into my fears. I wasn’t going to allow them to highjack my progress. Triggers, or no triggers, I was going to see this book through.
So I did.
I got through it.
Until Annie’s chapters progressed.
It’s funny… almost ironic as to how this all came about for me. It felt like some sort of inside joke that I wasn’t in on. Little did I know that I had been, in a sense, waiting for this moment for the last couple of years of my life.
In Annie’s experience, her shame and guilt would come through in Kent’s voice — scrutinizing her, accusing her, blaming her. I know what was really happening though. It wasn’t Kent’s voice, of course. It was her own voice — scrutinizing herself, accusing herself, blaming herself — for her abuse. And in that very moment, reading all the horrid things “Kent” was spitting at Annie in her mind, I realized how almost every point “he” made, were points I still, to this day, make about myself regarding my own abuse.
Oh God, I thought to myself. I put down the book then, head spinning, stomach in knots. I tried to cast the newfound revelation out of my mind, but it was no use. I then begun recounting all the demons I had tamed over the course of my journey. I had tamed my hate towards men. I had tamed my cynicism. I had tamed my bitterness at the world. I had tamed my resentment, anger and blame towards my abuser as well as my parents. Hell, I had even tamed my drinking problem. I may have won all the most significant battles, but I had yet to win the war. After eighteen years of unbalanced struggles and triumphs, I still had yet to face the biggest and most important demon of them all: myself.
A bittersweet epiphany.
Annie crumbled… and I crumbled with her.
But of course, I said out loud as I cried with angst and happiness. It was about time I let go of all the shame, guilt, and anger I had buried deep inside my soul, specifically reserved for myself. It was about time I begun to understand my worth in its entirety. It was about time I learned how to finally truly love myself for exactly who I am.
I had never felt so ready to face a new chapter in my life. I was exhilarated and terrified all at once. I knew it was going to knock me on my ass, but I also knew I’d get right back up, and that it would be worth it tenfold.
And so here I am now, trudging along my new journey to self-love and acceptance. It has been hard, and by God has it been exhausting. But I will not give up on myself. I am just getting started.
Which brings me to the true reason why I worked up the nerve to write you today:
Mr. Lamb, I thank you for your words, of which are perfect art to me. We Are Water literally changed the course of my life in the best way possible. You are a true admirable inspiration. You write with your soul and your heart. Every word I’ve read of yours vibrates with its own frequency, and that is truly elating. As an aspiring writer myself, I can only hope to be able to be as fearless and raw in my own writing, as you have shown in your work throughout time.
Thank you. A thousand times thank you.