Wally Lamb: Southington Reads author draws record crowds

Wally Lamb speaks to a crowded house at the library’s Southington Reads event at the Aqua Turf last Wednesday. (Courtesy of the Southington Public Library)

By SHERIDAN CYR

STAFF WRITER

It was standing room only when the Southington Public Library hosted their most-attended Southington Reads event yet. On Wednesday, April 4, more than 500 guests converged on the Aqua Turf—from as far away as Florida—to hear from New York Times Best-Selling author, Wally Lamb.

“I chose Wally this year because we knew he was a Connecticut resident, and I knew he’s a terrific person and a fantastic author,” said library director Sue Smayda. “He was our most popular Southington Reads author yet.”

Lamb is the author of six New York Times best-selling novels: “I’ll Take You There,” “We are Water,” “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” “The Hour I First Believed,” “I Know This Much Is True,” and “She’s Come Undone.” He was selected twice for Oprah’s Book Club.

The fiction author writes in first person, putting himself into the world of a character’s mind and penning their experiences.

“We have a hunger to understand the world and our place in it,” Lamb said to his audience. “When we boil down human existence to the bare bones, reduce it to its lowest common denominator, we are governed by three basic instincts: to find food so we don’t starve, to satisfy our sex drive so we don’t become extinct, and third, to understand and interpret the world around us on some intellectual level.”

He said, at times, understanding the world feels like “making order out of chaos,” but the instinctive desire to analyze is what separates humans from the “lowly fruit fly.”

Connecticut native Wally Lamb is the 2018 Southington Reads author.

Lamb shared his experiences of writing each novel, describing the main character of each book and their individual hardships, such as a fearful late night trucker with a schizophrenic twin brother, living as an overweight young girl facing isolation from peers, and a young boy watching his older sister struggle with anorexia.

The author holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in teaching from the University of Connecticut, and a master of fine arts in writing degree from Vermont College. Lamb was working as a high school English teacher at Norwich Free Academy when he began writing in 1981. He was also an associate professor at the University of Connecticut where he directed the English department’s creative writing program.

In addition to his teaching career, Lamb has volunteered for 17 years as a writing workshop instructor at York Correctional Institution, a women’s prison in Connecticut. He has published two volumes of essays from students there.

“We were so honored that Wally agreed to be our Southington Reads author this year,” Smayda said. “When authors see the caliber of authors we’ve had here, they know it’s a good program to take part in. Now, people will see Wally Lamb there, too.”

Smayda said the event has grown “tremendously” over its 13 years. It outgrew its original venue at the high school and is now held at the Aqua Turf annually. The library has had speakers including New York Times bestsellers Andrew Gross and Andre Debus III, and Greg Maguire, author of “Wicked.”

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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