Wally Lamb is the critically acclaimed and beloved author of She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True and the editor of Couldn’t Keep It To Myself and I’ll Fly Away, two volumes of writing from the writing workshop he runs at York Correctional Institution. Both of his novels were #1 New York Times best-sellers and Oprah’s Book Club selections. Lamb’s books are neither short nor simple, but like a James Patterson of emotions, he pulls readers in and doesn’t let go. His third New York Times best-seller, The Hour I First Believed (Harper), is a profound and challenging work of fiction, which has been hailed by critics across the country. Lamb's latest book is Wishin' and Hopin': A Christmas Story (Harper), set in his fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut in the 1960s, introduces a new cast of endearing characters on their way to experiencing an outrageous Christmas. Lamb proves himself a virtuoso storyteller, assembling a variety of voices and an ensemble of characters rich enough to evoke all of humanity.
Lamb contributes his time as a volunteer facilitator at York Correctional Institution, a women’s prison in Niantic, Connecticut. In 2003, Lamb published the first collection of writings by the students at his writing workshop at the Institution in Couldn’t Keep It To Myself. Writing, Lamb had found, was an unexpected and transforming way for these women to recapture their humanity and the hope that many of them had long since lost. The resulting collection offered a revealing window into the souls of once-powerless women, as they learned what it meant to gain control over their voices and, in many cases, their lives. The publication stirred controversy when the state of Connecticut attempted to sue the writers, but after 60 Minutes aired a piece celebrating the program, and one of the writers won a prestigious PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award – the program and the book were vindicated.
Lamb returned with I’ll Fly Away, a new volume of intimate, searching pieces from the York workshop. Here, in works of memoir, poetry, and introspection, 20 women, some of them familiar from Couldn’t Keep It To Myself, many heard here for the first time, share the experiences that shaped them from childhood, and that trouble and inspire them to this day. There are stories of anger, physical abuse, rape, and emotional distress, but also more positive memories: of expressions of love, of gifts received and remembered, of light moments from happier times. These portraits, vignettes, and stories are painted in many colors: innocence and pain, denial, redemption, and transcendence. At their heart, they all testify to the same core truth: the universal value of knowing oneself, and changing one’s life, through the power of the written word.
Lamb was the director of the Writing Center at the Norwich Free Academy in Norwich, Connecticut from 1989-1998 and an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Connecticut. He holds a B.A. and an M.A. in Education from the University of Connecticut and an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Christine, and their three sons.
Praise for Wally Lamb:
"Wally Lamb is a generous, open speaker. He had everyone is the audience mesmerized with his deeply personal stories sprinkled with a touch of humor and humility."
—Christine Painter, Literary Sojourn: Steamboat Springs' Festival of Authors
"Wally Lamb is almost as masterful a speaker as he is a writer. He was by turns funny, insightful, and poignant. He told wonderful "behind the scenes" stories and discussed his work in surprising ways. My audience -- all two thousand -- felt like they spent an intimate evening with a friend."
—Andrew Proctor, Portland Arts & Lectures
"Wally Lamb's presentation about his creative process was tremendously insightful, funny, and filled with personal anecdotes. He was gracious and generous with his time, especially in the book signing line, when he took time to have meaningful conversations with each person. Many of our patrons and volunteers commented that he was a true highlight of our 2009 season. We'd welcome him back to Dallas in a heartbeat!"
—Carolyn Bess, Director, Arts & Letters Live, Dallas Museum of Art
"Our organization has been hosting authors for many years, but our experience with Wally Lamb was one of the best. Not only is Wally a wonderfully gifted author, he is also a genuinely nice and personable speaker who gave a thought provoking speech to our audience. Positive feedback has been abundant! If you want to hear a speaker who will have you laughing, thinking and even crying, Wally Lamb will not disappoint."
—Mary Papadimitriou, Junior League of Lancaster, PA
"Wally Lamb's presentation was humorous and enlightening. The excerpts that he chose to read were ones that left one wanting more even from those who had read the book. Our audience was enthralled and the Q & A was equally engaging."
—Nancy Rebek, Denver Pen and Podium Series
Praise for The Hour I First Believed:
“Lamb . . . has delivered a tour de force, his best yet. A”
“Lamb, a maestro of orchestrating emotion . . . knows how to make his fans’ hearts sing.”
“[Lamb] knows just how to let the details of a tragedy unfold without decoration or commentary. He’s a master at the kind of direct, unadorned narrative that brings these events alive in all their visceral power. . . This portrayal of a couple dealing with the asymmetrical effects of trauma is Lamb at his best, wholly sympathetic, deeply moving.”
—Washington Post Book World
“A page-turner. . . . Lamb remains a storyteller at the top of his game.”
“The Hour I First Believed is a moving, sprawling story that seasaws between hope and despair.”
“This epic novel (700-plus pages) is a profound meditation on how, against all odds, lives derailed by chaos are filled with hope once again.”
“Lamb does an extraordinary job narrating some of the most terrifying tragedies of the past 10 years. . . . This is an epic journey that ponders the inexplicable nature of tragedy and its terrible repercussions. Through the chaos, Lamb reveals a quiet thread of hope. Grade: A.”
—Rocky Mountain News
“Lamb has crafted another affecting, engrossing tome about complicated, interesting characters.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Lamb’s narrative . . . quickly pulls the reader into the lives of its characters. . . Lamb casts a wide net and hauls back themes both grand and personal. . . Lamb is exceptional in his exploration of the direct and indirect impacts of survivor guilt.”
“An embracing, troubling book that spans the Civil War to the present, filled with those other Lamb trademarka – a deep understanding of loss, tempered by compassion, big-heartedness and that most necessary quality, humor.”
—New Orleans Times-Picayune
“Profound and moving... The beauty of The Hour I First Believed, a soaring novel as amazingly graceful as the classic hymn that provides the title, is that Lamb never loses sight of the spark of human resilience... Lamb’s wonderful novel offers us the promise and power of hope.”
“Every character is rendered with vivid, utterly convincing depth... The Hour I First Believed is, at heart, a study of character and society and how they mold one another, but under Mr. Lamb’s incandescent stewardship, it’s also a thriller and a heck of a page-turner.”
—Dallas Morning News
“[Lamb’s] pacing is superb: Sections of the story expand to accommodate a mix of characters, yet scenes don’t linger overlong.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“…too compelling to put down…a richly textured story...”
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“When you put Lamb’s newest novel down, it will be reluctantly. It’s that good... Lamb is a writer to be envied... he gives birth to characters so unforgettable they become part of his readers’ psyche.”
“Wally Lamb is a remarkable talent... In his latest novel, he nimbly weaves real events, especially the Columbine school shootings, with the fictional story of Caelum Quirk.”
“Weaving the various storylines into something beautiful and rewarding took great skill – something Wally Lamb has in spades.”
—Santa Cruz Sentinel
Praise for I Know This Much Is True:
“A gratifying saga of loss and redemption.”
“Every now and then a book comes along that sets new standards for writers and readers alike. Wally Lamb’s latest novel is stunning – and even that might be an understatement. This is a masterpiece.”
– Associated Press
“Thoughtful… heart-wrenching… An exercise in soul-baring storytelling-with the soul belonging to twentieth century America itself. It’s hard to read and to stop reading, and impossible to forget.”
– USA Today
“A work of astonishing craftsmanship, structural symmetry, and literary self-awareness… Read it and weep.”
– St. LouisPost-Dispatch
“…a fully developed and triumphantly resolved exploration of one man’s suffering and redemption.”
– Publishers Weekly, starred review
“In his second novel, Lamb details the pain and perversions of generations of dysfunctional families in the struggle between twin brothers at midlife. His craftsmanship and characterizations are exceptional… Fine work, relentless in its effect.”
– Library Journal
Praise for Couldn’t Keep It To Myself:
“The 12 riveting, touching autobiographical accounts [of Couldn’t Keep It to Myself] look past the bars to lay bare lives that would normally have gone unheard.”
– Entertainment Weekly
“Without resorting to pity or braggadocio, the stories detail the authors’ early lives, prison experiences, relationships with abusive husbands and partners in heartbreaking, inspiring detail… The stories in Couldn’t Keep It to Myself are self-assured, deftly structured, and grippingly paced. Impressively, not one narrative comes across as an excuse or rationalization.”
– New York Post
“An intriguing and powerful collection.”
– Publishers Weekly
Praise for I’ll Fly Away:
“The book challenges stereotypes and offers a world of information about how women end up in prison. It’s a certainty that I’ll Fly Away will be… required reading in middle schools and high schools and for sociology and psychology majors all over the country.”
– San Antonio Express-News
“In 20 essays, contributors recall childhood suffering, abusive relationships, and circumstances that led them to be imprisoned… Lamb… continues to offer readers an intimate look at women struggling to maintain their humanity.”
“Inspiring and raw…The 20 women whose work is featured here… show that writing is not just a way of capturing their most private thoughts and gripping emotions… but also a powerful tool to foster hope and healing. They write from the heart… each vignette is more compelling than the one before it.”
– Library Journal
Praise for Wishin' and Hopin':
"...in the hands of Wally Lamb, what emerges isn't an apology but a celebration of life -flawed, goofy, wonderful life - Felix makes a hilarious guide through a story that whirs right along."
"Lamb's rich panoply of details...render this novel first-rate escapism just begging for a comforter and a cup of tea."
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
"This book is a bonbon for any baby boomer...Lamb gets Felix's voice just right, and he does a spot-on job of evoking the special joys and trials of parochial school in the '60's...Put a bow on this book and warm somebody's heart."
—St. Petersburg Times
"Warmly, sweetly retro"
—Kansas City Star
"Lamb's vividly detailed portrait of the 1960's and the inner workings of a Catholic schoolboy's mind puts his first Christmas book on par with his previous three novels."
"Lamb...proves he can be short, sweet and funny"
"Wishin' and Hopin' from Wally Lamb reminds us of what innocence was like."
— Body and Soul
"Both heartwarming and laugh-out-loud funny...a cast of characters that are both uproarious and unforgettable...a poignant reminder that family and friends are the greatest gift of all."
—Hartford Books Examiner
We might as well call Wally Lamb the man with the golden pen...[Wishin' and Hopin'] will leave you laughing and thinking nostalgically about your own school days and holidays past"
"Lamb is a very good writer, and Wishin' and Hopin' is a charming read with a genuinely funny ending."
"Humorous and heartwarming...clever and well-written...A fun trip down memory lane from a skilled writer. The stocking stuffer might just become a cherished possession."
"Charming.... Full of pop-culture references of the day...this will have broad appeal."
"A heartwarming slice of life....The entertaining characters will bring back youthful memories."
—Romantic Times (4 Stars)