Have you ever read a book that made your skin crawl while at the same time was completely unputdownable? When I read the book Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam I came away from it simultaneously with a big smile on my face for reading a fantastic book, but also with a weird sense of WTF did I just read?
I love it when a book messes with you like this.
Lamb traces the self-discovery of David Lamb, a narcissistic middle aged man with a tendency toward dishonesty, in the weeks following the disintegration of his marriage and the death of his father. Hoping to regain some faith in his own goodness, he turns his attention to Tommie, an awkward and unpopular eleven-year-old girl. Lamb is convinced that he can help her avoid a destiny of apathy and emptiness, and even comes to believe that his devotion to Tommie is in her best interest. But when Lamb decides to abduct a willing Tommie for a road trip from Chicago to the Rockies, planning to initiate her into the beauty of the mountain wilderness, they are both shaken in ways neither of them expects.
Reading through this I could not help but compare it to Lolita but in my opinion this book messes with you much more effectively. Whereas Lolita was in places a meandering mess, Lamb is tight and straight and makes you anxious to turn the page, but makes you do so with one eye peeking between a hand over your eyes. Of course there are some key differences between the two books, and I won’t go into those as that puts us in spoiler territory, but suffice to say that Nadzam’s development of the story keeps you on edge throughout.
It is a wonderfully woven tale that will make you feel for all of the characters and their situations, even the side characters. They all feel real and relatable – you might not agree with what some of them do, but Nadzam makes you understand their motivations, however flawed.
The end result is a thoroughly engrossing read, one that will stay with you for a long time after.