She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb

(No Series)

In this extraordinary coming-of-age odyssey, Wally Lamb invites us to hitch a wild ride on a journey of love, pain, and renewal with the most heartbreakingly comical heroine to come along in years.

Meet Dolores Price. She's 13, wise-mouthed but wounded, having bid her childhood goodbye. Stranded in front of her bedroom TV, she spends the next few years nourishing herself with the Mallomars, potato chips, and Pepsi her anxious mother supplies. When she finally orbits into young womanhood at 257 pounds, Dolores is no stronger and life is no kinder. But this time she's determined to rise to the occasion and give herself one more chance before she really goes under.

“I think... the secret is to just settle for the shape of your life takes...Instead of you know, always waiting and wishing for what might make you happy.”

Damn, but this is one of those hard books to rate, think about, and review. It's a cauldron of chaos, a literary train wreck written into the character's life. We're with Dolores from a young age, and we go through the agonies of aging and tragedy with her. So. Much. Tragedy!

It's a book I couldn't take in all at once - instead I had to ingest small doses, then come back to it later. Wally Lamb writes cleverly well - his wording sucked me in when I dared to continue Dolores' depressing story. There's symbolism, there's growth, there's walking backward, there's surprises, there's pain and beauty.

Dolores is hard to identify - in one way this book is so honest, touching upon things people don't mention enough. Obesity and Aids and rape and horrible husbands and death and...well, so much. This is in no way a simple novel about a woman overcoming obesity. Does she ever survive and find herself? Or does she just survive and find herself in a realistic way, the only way people ever really can?

In some ways Dolores was a turn off, and I don't mean her weaknesses, because I understood those. I mean her lashing out and willingness to hurt those close to her so easily. I know it was because of her age at some point, her anger and frustration and teenage hormones - later I know it was because of her rage and because that was the only way she knew how to fight back. But ultimately sometimes (only sometimes) I just couldn't like the character.

I sympathized with her - she went through awful, horrible stuff. I understood when she fell because so many have fallen there too. I didn't mind that - there was just something a little mean-spirited about her sometimes, but I guess that's another thing that makes her a more realistic and honest character too.

This book is heavy - I don't mean just length, although that's considerable, but because I went through so many long phases with Dolores, phases that were enough to cover a whole novel by each phase itself. I figured when I got to a point, then the rest of the novel would keep following it. But no, more cycles would start and begin, life was lived a long time in these pages, from a child with the world shattered to a woman nearing forty who has found a semblance, finally, of peace.

I struggled between a three and four star rating. The subject matter, the writing style, the heavy depth deserve four stars. I think I didn't enjoy the second half as much, I was growing impatient with it, how it was draining me, and maybe that sucked a rating away from my enjoyment.

I do have to say that She's Come Undone is different, it's daring, it's honest, it's heartbreaking (really), but it's also wonderful and deserves a read. Definitely not a book I'll forget, and it's not something I've read before.

For Dolores, and for so many of us, there's that ray of hope that is at the same time covered with reality's bleakness.

   Book Quotes:

“I think... the secret is to just settle for the shape of your life takes...Instead of you know, always waiting and wishing for what might make you happy.” 

 “It was a matter of perspective, I began to see.
The whole world was crazy; I'd flattered myself by assuming I was a semifinalist."

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