After 27 years of marriage and three children, artist Anna Oh has fallen in love with the wealthy Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her success, provoking some very mixed reactions and opens a Pandora’s Box of toxic secrets.
The novel's opening has an almost lighthearted quality. Orion's invited to the wedding, Annie's fretting over the bridal gowns and Viveca thinks it would be lovely to be married in Orion's back yard. One can almost imagine this being the perfect plot for a politically correct 21st-century romantic comedy of manners … In his singularly perceptive voice, Lamb immerses his characters and the novel's readers in powerful moments of hope and redemption and shocking descriptions of violence and abuse. The novel's focus on the creative process flows through an equally fascinating subplot that deals with the life and suspicious death of an African-American artist whose works inspired Annie's career.
Lamb skillfully mines the darting, banal, petty, random and innermost thoughts of artist Annie Oh, her ex-husband Orion, their children and a few secondary characters. He also gets inside the head of a child molester, to squirming effect – it's not a head you really want to inhabit … The Ohs are complicated and compelling figures. Annie thinks she is protecting her family by not revealing the pain of her past, but hidden truths only beget more secrets and sorrow … Art's power to provoke is a theme that wends its way through We Are Water.
The signifiers start early in We Are Water, which is told in a series of alternating first-person narratives. Annie, an experimental artist, is at the center of them all, however, and her history, as well as her purported gift, drives the plot … We Are Water has all the touchstones of a potboiler: multigenerational family saga, high finance, abuse, creativity, sex, and even love.