She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb begins when Dolores Price is four years old, when a TV is being delivered to her home, a gift from her father’s employer. Her life, told in first person narrative, is laid out chronologically from one tragic event to the next.
Dolores lives in Connecticut with her father and mother. As she enters young adulthood, her mother becomes pregnant with a little boy. After a tragic death during birth, Dolores remains an only child and her mother and father’s relationship starts to deteriorate. Dolores’ parents soon divorce and her mother goes away to a mental hospital to deal with not only the death of her child, but also the fact that her husband cheated on her and left her for another woman.
In the midst of her family falling apart, Dolores goes to live with her grandmother in Rhode Island where she fights her way through her teenage years and becomes overweight and alone. Her struggle only gets worse in college and eventually she ends up in a mental hospital, just as her mother did, and stays there for quite a long time. After feeling like she is ready to move on with her life, Dolores decides to start from scratch in Vermont.
She’s Come Undone is comparable to a very long, bad movie that I couldn’t stop watching. Every chapter was worse than the one prior, but I couldn’t stop reading it. I wanted to find something to love in this book, something to just like even, but I couldn’t until I finally got to Chapter 20 out of 29. This is where I would say the book became tolerable, but not great, or even good.
Dolores’ life is as far from normal as it can get, and I blame her whack-job parents for this. After her move to Rhode Island, she never seems to do anything except watch TV, eat, and avoid most human interaction until she is in her 20’s. This is due to the fact that everyone at school makes fun of her and because she always ends up trusting the wrong people. By the middle of the book, I thought, “Okay, it has to get better, Dolores has to get better.” Even though it seemed as if she was better on one page, the next page threw that idea out the window, and Dolores was back to square one.
I have never read a more depressing book in my life. It’s as if Wally Lamb was trying way too hard to make us feel bad for Dolores, but I just ended up feeling more and more angry as the novel drug on; enraged even. Every bad thing that could happen to a person, happened to Dolores.
As the book seemed to be winding down, and I thought there couldn’t be anymore surprises left, the book started to get sad. As in, Rent the musical kind of sad. Wasn’t there enough pain and agony in this story? Did that have to be thrown in there too? As the book ended though, I had a smile on my face, not because I was finally finished reading it (although I was more than happy about that) but because Dolores found what she was looking for.