Having read Wally Lamb’s two other books She’s Come Undone (Was ok) and The Hour I First Believed (Loved it!) I figured I might as well indulge in his other novel, I Know This Much Is True.
This novel is about identical twins, Dominick and Thomas Birdsey. Thomas suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, although Dominick is untouched by the disease. This story follows Dominick’s struggle to be the sane twin, the one who has to carry the burden of his brother’s illness all the while trying to figure out who he is, and where he belongs.
Every waking moment of his life Dominick Birdsey feels split in two – he is the sane twin to a schizophrenic brother. Dominick is bound to his brother by love and resentment, anger and fear. From childhood, he fights for both separation and belonging in a house dominated by their stepfather Ray. Their story is a search for identity, love and wholeness, and for answers to the dark secrets of his family. It journeys from a blue-collar town in New England to the foothills of Sicily’s Mount Etna where Dominick’s vengefully proud grandfather was born. And in his grandfather’s handwritten memoirs, Dominick finds confessions and a legacy of contrition.
This novel contains quite a story. The narrative switches between Dominick’s life and what is happening, to the story his grandfather had written about his life. The characters in this novel really come alive, from the angry, struggling Dominick and his troubled brother Thomas… even to the minor characters, like Dominick’s ex wife Dessa, his new girlfriend Joy and the ever present, yet aloof Ralph Drinkwater. All the characters in this novel are important to the story in different ways and can not be discounted as anything less than important.
Like all of Wally Lamb’s novels, he tackles many controversial, yet important issues from rape, divorce, AIDS, racism, mental illness, SIDS and how destructive keeping secrets can be to the soul. This is a tome of a book at 859 pages, but it is quite easy to read and hard to put down. I really enjoyed this book and think I may revisit it in a few years, there is just so much in this book to deal with that I am not sure I really took it all in. Now I have read all of Wally Lamb’s novels I am looking forward to the next one! Although considering the epics he writes, I may have a bit of a wait.
I found a preview of this novel on Google Books – Here