A glacially paced novel of modern manners and mayhem, its chief elements being middle-aged angst, mass murder and pizza.
Like Jack Torrance of Stephen King’s The Shining, Caelum Quirk is a man of ambition who moved to Colorado to find his fortune and wound up teaching creative writing to the unwilling. At the beginning of the book, we learn that Caelum’s wife, Maureen, has been engaging in certain extracurricular activities. While Caelum does not take an ax to the offending parties, he is consigned to the hell of anger-management courses all the same. For her part, Maureen discovers horror when violence erupts at the school where she works—namely, Columbine High, in the tidy Denver suburb of Littleton. Caelum, a teacher, is absent, attending to a sick aunt across the country. While doing so, and over the course of much time and much talk among many characters, Maureen reckons with having become unhinged while Caelum discovers ominous clippings in the family archive. Lamb (I Know This Much Is True, 1998, etc.) writes at considerable leisure about all this; indeed, the gunfire starts 150 pages into the narrative. Meanwhile and after, there is much pondering. Lamb knows how to put together a good, meaning-charged sentence (“I’ve stalked the monster during long, meditative runs on country roads, at the bottoms of wine and scotch bottles, and over the Internet, that labyrinth inside the labyrinth”), but there are plenty of clunkers, too. Moreover, the takeaway point isn’t quite clear: Lamb seems to be suggesting that inside every one of us, or at least every family, there’s a Dylan Klebold screaming to get out and plenty of skeletons for too few closets.
A clearer focus and a forgone subplot or two would have helped. Of interest, however, as an entry in the body of literature that has emerged from real tragedy.