Wally Lamb is an American author known as the writer of the novels She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, both of which were selected for Oprah's Book Club. He was the director of the Writing Center at Norwich Free Academy in Norwich from 1989 to 1998 and has taught Creative Writing in the English Department at the University of Connecticut.
Lamb was born to a working-class family in Norwich, Connecticut. Three Rivers, the fictional town where several of his novels are set, is based on Norwich and the nearby towns of New London, Willimantic, in Connecticut as well as Westerly, Rhode Island. As a child, Lamb loved to draw and create his own comic books—activities which, he says, gave him "a leg up" on the imagery and colloquial dialogue that characterize his stories. He credits his ability to write in female voices, as well as male, with having grown up with older sisters in a neighborhood largely populated by girls.
After graduating from high school, Lamb studied at the University of Connecticut during the turbulent early 1970s era of anti-war and civil rights protests and student strikes. He holds a B.A. and an M.A. in Education from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College.
Lamb began writing in 1981, the year he became a father. Lamb's first published stories were short fiction that appeared in Northeast, a Sunday magazine of the Hartford Courant. "Astronauts," published in The Missouri Review in 1989, won the Missouri Review William Peden Prize and became widely anthologized. His first novel, She's Come Undone, was followed six years later by I Know This Much Is True, a story about identical twin brothers, one of whom develops paranoid schizophrenia. Both novels became number-one bestsellers after Oprah Winfrey selected them for her popular Book Club.
Lamb's third novel, The Hour I First Believed, published in 2008, interfaces fiction with such non-fictional events as the Columbine High School shooting, the Iraq War, and, in a story within the story, events of nineteenth-century America. Published the following year, Wishin' and Hopin' was a departure from Lamb: a short, comically nostalgic novel about a parochial school fifth grader set in 1964.
In We Are Water, Lamb returns to his familiar setting of Three Rivers. The novel focuses on art, 1950s-era racial strife, and the impact of a devastating flood on a Connecticut family. His seventh novel, I'll Take You There, revives characters from Wishin' and Hopin' and considers themes of millennial-era popular culture contrasted with figures from the silent film era and the 1950s Miss Rheingold contest.
Lamb's writing awards include grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, the Connecticut Center for the Book's Lifetime Achievement Award, selections by Oprah's Book Club, and Germany's Bertelsmann Book Club, the Pushcart Prize, the New England Book Award for Fiction, and New York Times Notable Books of the Year listings.
She's Come Undone was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times's Best First Novel Award and one of People magazine's Top Ten Books of the Year. I Know This Much Is True won the Friends of Libraries Readers' Choice Award for best novel of 1998 and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill's Kenneth Johnson Award for its anti-stigmatizing of mental illness.
Teaching awards for Lamb include a national Apple Computers "Thanks to Teachers" Excellence Award and the Barnes and Noble "Writers Helping Writers" Award for his work with incarcerated women. Lamb has received Honorary Doctoral Degrees from several colleges and universities and was awarded Distinguished Alumni awards from Vermont College of Fine Arts and the University of Connecticut.