Title: She’s Come Undone
Author: Wally Lamb
Describe the book in one word: Page-turner
Star rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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 is thirteen, wise mouthed but wounded, having bid farewell to her childhood. Stranded in front of her bedroom TV, she spends the next few years nourishing herself with the chocolate, crisps, 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 is determined to rise to the occasion and give herself one more chance before she really goes under.
Trigger warning: sexual violence, self-harm
I loved this book so much. I know I will think of it for a long time to come. I picked the book because I liked the updated cover (cliché, I know). I almost put it down before I even started reading because of the negative reviews on Goodreads – all the most recent ones seem bad. As this coming-of-age novel was originally published in 1992, I wondered if perhaps it was outdated, but it is not.
As soon as I started reading, I was hooked. I greedily read it up at any opportunity. Before I got up, with breakfast, on my lunch break, all evening long. I had to know what happened to Dolores Price, I just had to. She was morphing in from of my very eyes, from a happy-go-lucky child, to an overweight teenager, broken college student, and gradually, a reborn young woman.
Fundamentally, the book is one of hope, about a journey through life. Yes, bad things happen along the way, sad things too. At times, it feels like things will never get better, that no-one is there for Dolores. But in the dark times, there are always glimmers of hope and on reflection, Dolores is loved, and people do care. You are essentially reading the story, as told by Dolores, of a troubled teenager making her own way in life, picking her own path, making her own friends.
As we get older, our perspectives change, we might not stay the same person, people come, and they go. I loved watching relationships blossom, the quiet understanding between the characters. That is life, a life. Which is essentially what the book reflects. It is beautifully written, I love the eras in which it is set, I love the characters, the twists and the turns. Her friends, her family are a collection of waifs and strays – that is where Dolores finds kindness, companionship, and love.
Dolores had a good start in life, but things went downhill fast. She internalised a lot of what happened and blamed herself. Even though she is a furiously strong character – wilful, and opinionated. She was easily overwhelmed by strong (usually male) characters or did things to please other people. Eventually, with some help and support, she figured things out, figured herself out and what she was willing to accept.
It is empowering and, in my opinion, it will remain a timeless classic because it speaks to so many different people at so many different points in their lives. I saw one review on Goodreads that said something along the lines of: ‘it’s written by a man about a fat teenage girl – I saw that and didn’t even bother reading it because I know a man could never understand what it’s like to be a woman.’ Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I am not shaming this reviewer. I just find it a judgement approach. The only way to realise that Wally Lamb perfectly depicts how life was for Dolores, is to read the book yourself.
Anyone who thinks it will not work or it cannot be accurate, I challenge you to read the book and then decided whether Lamb is accurate in his depiction.
I have entitled the review: ‘She’s Come Undone: The Original Eleanor Oliphant?’, for several reasons. I am not saying the books are the same – they are not. But both explore an unravelling of female characters, with the issues stemming from childhood, and the coping mechanisms are harmful, unhealthy. They are just told in different ways, at different times, in different places.
Have you read ‘She’s Come Undone’? What do you think?