This novel is a sort of coming of age novel by Wally Lamb. It tells the life story (well, until late 30s) of Dolores Price. Dolores begins narrating the book from her first memory: a TV being delivered to her house. From there she tells the story of a young girl whose life experiences twist and turn through good and horrifyingly bad.
So, SPOILER ALERT.
Her parents get divorced when he father cheats on her mother with another woman. Her mother enters a mental health center and Dolores is left alone with her grandmother and a the mean kids of the Catholic school she attends. Her mother returns from the mental health facility, and Dolores is raped by the upstairs neighbor.
Dolores goes to college after a long anti-college battle with her mother. She decides to go after discovering her mother has died in an accident on the job. There she is made fun of, mocked, and has a one-night-stand with the college’s lesbian janitor. She escapes from college to Cape Cod and attempts suicide. From there, she is found and enters a mental health facility much like her mother did.
After deciding to quit therapy, Dolores moves to attempt to seduce Dante, a boy with whom she had an obsession in college. Dolores gets pregnant and Dante pressures her into getting an abortion. They get married. Dante and Dolores divorce after she catches him cheating with a former student of his.
Her grandmother dies, and she moves back to her home town, reuniting with old friends. There she meets a man, Thayer, in a course at her community college. They get involved mostly because Dolores wants a child. They end up getting married and attempting to have a baby together.
This book was recommended to me by one of my former high school English teachers, Ms. Sally Tate. She said it was one of her favorite books. When I was researching the book online, many sources lauded the ability of Wally Lamb to write from a female perspective. There were a few discrepancies (mostly in anatomical and bodily functions of women) but overall, I was impressed with his voice, and his ability to persuade me that it came from a woman.
The imagery throughout the novel was nice as well. There was an ongoing symbol in whales which I thought was both creative and new. The only other important whale I can think of in literature is Moby Dick. I can see where he got the symbol, overweight women feeling like whales, being called whales, etc. But in the end, the whale is also a mysterious and calming creature.
Overall, I think it’s a great book, and would recommend it to all female readers.