cover image We Are Water

We Are Water

Wally Lamb. HarperCollins, $29.99 (564p) ISBN 978-0-06-194102-3

Set mostly in Connecticut, Lamb's (She's Come Undone) fifth novel takes on race, class, sexuality, and art, sometimes clumsily, yet the complex plot is captivating. On the brink of her second marriage, artist Annie Oh fis plagued by "lifestyle guilt." After a tormented childhood%E2%80%94a flood that killed her mother and sister; a stint in foster care; abuse at the hands of her cousin%E2%80%94Annie leaves her husband, Dr. Orion Oh, for a woman: art dealer Viveca Christophoulos-Shabbas. The Ohs' three children%E2%80%94all grown%E2%80%94accept their mother's decision, though Andrew is more reluctant than his sisters, Marissa and Ariane. Lamb seems eager to include many permutations of American identity: Orion is Chinese-Italian, Viveca is Greek%E2%80%93and previously married to an Arab man to boot. A section narrated by a Ku Klux Klansman's widow is unconvincing, torn between racism and apology. However Lamb excels at delivering unexpected blows to his characters, ratcheting up the suspense to the final page. Agent: Kassie Evashevski,United Talent Agency. (Nov.)