Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I Know This Much Is True

Try as I might, I can't remember who recommended this book.  Someone thought I would enjoy lugging this 900-page behemoth around for a week, pages falling out and dog-eared.  You know what?  Whoever it was, you were right. Wally Lamb's tale of identical twin brothers is a wonder of pacing, managing to keep the reader entranced by the Birsey men throughout the hundreds of written pages.  The main gist is that Dominick Birdsey is trying his hardest to get his brother, Thomas, out of a psychiatric hospital.  Thomas, a schizophrenic, has cut his own hand off as a sacrifice to God, believing it would help stop the oncoming Gulf War.  Obviously, the state of Connecticut doesn't want him wandering the streets after that stunt.  Along the way, Dominick is dealing with some craziness from his live-in girlfriend Joy, his best friend's self-absorption (that would be Leo), his broken heart from divorcing the love of his life Dessa, and his stepfather Ray, who was an abusive presence in his and Thomas' childhood. 
Dominick develops relationships with his brother's social workers, one of whom helps him begin taking apart his anger issues to rebuild a healthier life.  During his visits to the therapist, he relives a life spent protecting Thomas from Ray and the rest of the world, as well as his own feelings of abandonment stemming from his mother always choosing Ray over him.  He flashes back to the summer of 1969, when Thomas began showing symptoms of mental illness, and a summer job defined his life in ways he couldn't comprehend at the time. 
Oh, and there's the translated manuscript of his immigrant grandfather's life, in which Dominick finds more comparisons than he's comfortable with. 
It sounds like a lot, but Lamb does a wonderful job of keeping the story moving.  Ultimately, this is a story about responsibilities to yourself vs. family, grief and regret, anger and moving forward. Those are pretty universal themes, so you could probably find something in there to relate to.  It's great to see a 40-year old man really change his ways throughout the course of the novel, and Lamb manages to develop each character into full-blown personalities in your head.  By the end, you'll feel as if you know them personally.


  1. It does sound like a lot but I'm going to put in on my "to read list". My favorite book of all times "and Ladies of the Club" is hundreds of pages as well so I think I'll be able to get through this one.
    aunt nesi

  2. Image copyright David Teplica