Wally Lamb has an uncanny sense of what goes through the female mind. She’s Come Undone covers Dolores Price’s life from age 4 to 40. When Dolores is 4, her family receives a television as a gift from her father’s employer. Television becomes a core part of Dolores’s life and paves the way toward viewing the world through the lens of television fantasy.
When her parents’ marriage ends, Dolores’s mother has a mental breakdown and is institutionalized. Dolores moves to her grandmother’s house in another city. The grandmother constantly complains, watches television endlessly, and has no concept about Dolores’s needs.
The mother is discharged and joins Dolores at Grandma’s house. Neither her mother nor grandmother has a clue about raising a child. Junk food was always available and no encouragement given to this young girl to do something worthwhile with her time. Dolores has no friends, does not participate academically or socially at school. She steadily gains weight, reaching an enormous two hundred fifty-seven pounds.
She’s Come Undone covers a realm of obesity, rape, abortion, mental illness, and deceit, but it is also about love, understanding and hope. Despite the novel’s grim subject matter, the story is told with humor. The novel reads like an autobiography and every once in awhile I reminded myself that the author was a man, a man of extraordinary insights.
This novel changed my way of thinking about obesity, about why people behave in destructive ways, and the awful consequences of inappropriate guilt. This book is not for everyone. Tender souls need not bother. But I value this experience, this look at another side of life.