#1 New York Times Bestseller and Oprah Book Club selection
"Thoughtful . . . heart-wrenching . . . . An exercise in soul-baring storytelling—with the soul belonging to 20th-century America itself. It's hard to read and to stop reading, and impossible to forget." — USA Today
Dominick Birdsey, a forty-year-old housepainter living in Three Rivers, Connecticut, finds his subdued life greatly disturbed when his identical twin brother Thomas, a paranoid schizophrenic, commits a shocking act of self-mutilation. Dominick is forced to care for his brother as well as confront dark secrets and pain he has buried deep within himself—a journey of the soul that takes him beyond his blue-collar New England town to Sicily’s Mount Etna, the birthplace of his grandfather and namesake. Coming to terms with his life and lineage, Dominick struggles to find forgiveness and finally rebuild himself beyond the haunted shadow of his troubled twin.
I Know This Much Is True is a masterfully told story of alienation and connection, power and abuse, devastation and renewal—an unforgettable masterpiece.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
For Dominick Birdsey, family is a tangle of unfathomable trauma. His brother Thomas’ schizophrenia-induced meltdown causes Dominick to reflect on their shared, painful past—the dictatorial immigrant grandfather, the father they never knew, the stepfather who beat them—and on his own dire present, including a failed marriage and the death of his baby daughter. As with his bestseller She’s Come Undone, author Wally Lamb embraces tough truths and big emotions, sweeping us up in Dominick’s quest for answers and lasting peace.
This much is true for sure: Lamb's second novel (after the bestselling, Oprah-selected She's Come Undone) is a hefty read. Some may be daunted by its length, its seemingly obsessive inclusion of background details and its many digressions. The topics it unflinchingly explores--mental illness, dysfunctional families, domestic abuse--are rendered with unsparing candor. But thanks to well-sustained dramatic tension, funky gallows humor and some shocking surprises, this sinuous story of one family's dark secrets and recurring patterns of behavior largely succeeds in its ambitious reach. The narrative explores the theme of sibling responsibility, depicting the moral and emotional conundrum of an identical twin whose love for his afflicted brother is mixed with resentment, bitterness and guilt. Narrator Dominick Birdsey, once a high-school history teacher and now, at 40, a housepainter in upstate Connecticut, relates the process that led to his twin Thomas's schizophrenic paranoia and the resulting chaos in both their lives. The book opens with a horrific scene in which Thomas slices off his right hand, declaring it a sacrifice demanded by God. Flashbacks illuminate the boys' difficult childhoods: illegitimate, they never knew their father; diffident, gentle Thomas was verbally and physically abused by their bullying stepfather, who also terrorized their ineffectual mother. Scenes from the pivotal summer of 1969, when Dominick betrayed Thomas and others in crucial ways, are juxtaposed with his current life: his frustrating relationship with his scatterbrained live-in, Joy; his enduring love for his ex-wife, Dessa; his memories of their baby's death and of his mother's sad and terrified existence. All of this unfolds against his urgent need to release Thomas from a mental institution and the psychiatric sessions that finally force Dominick to acknowledge his own self-destructive impulses. Lamb takes major risks in spreading his narrative over more than 900 pages. Long stretches are filled with the raunchy, foul-mouthed humor of teenaged Dominick and his friends. Yet the details of working-class life, particularly the prevalence of self-righteous male machismo and domestic brutality, ring absolutely true. Though the inclusion of a diary written by the twins' Sicilian immigrant grandfather may seem an unnecessary digression at first, its revelations add depth and texture to the narrative. Lastly, what seems a minor subplot turns out to hold the key to many secrets. In tracing Dominick's helplessness against the abuse of power on many levels, Lamb creates a nuanced picture of a flawed but decent man. And the questions that suspensefully permeate the novel--the identity of the twins' father; the mystery of the inscription on their grandfather's tomb; the likelihood of Dominick's reconciliation with his ex-wife--contribute to a fully developed and triumphantly resolved exploration of one man's suffering and redemption. BOMC main selection; author tour; simultaneous audio.