Book Review, Fiction

Book Review: I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

Having recently read We Are Water, Wally Lamb’s latest book, I realized it’s been ages since I’ve read his works. I went to the library and borrowed this copy of I Know This Much Is True.

I’d forgotten what an emotional, wonderful book this is.

I’d forgotten how much I had always wanted to write books like this.

Here’s the plot in a nutshell: Dominic Birdsey is a 40-something year old house painter. He has a twin brother named Thomas, a stepfather named Ray, a crazy bimbo girlfriend named Joy, and an ex-wife Dessa with whom he’s still very much in love.  Thomas, his identical twin brother, is a paranoid schizophrenic. The novel begins with Thomas’ horrific action of cutting off his own hand while seated in the local public library.

Dominic has spent his entire life fighting as Thomas’ protector, first from their bullying stepfather, Ray, and later from the various forces working to keep him institutionalized. The novel is told from Dominic’s perspective except for chapters of his grandfather’s biographical memoir, which we read as if we are Dominic.

The novel really explored inter-generational relationships. I especially loved how this ghost of a grandfather still “haunts” the family dynamic even though neither Dominic nor Thomas met him!  Lamb absolutely nails it on how the echoes of the past trickle down to the present, influencing families and actions for decades to come. I think this is really what the Bible means when ‘the sins of the fathers are visited on the sons’.

The book explores several other themes. Should Dominic be his brother’s keeper? He promised his mother before she died that he would look after his brother, but where does one life end and the other begin?

The characters are realistic and sympathetic. The book really draws you into the lives of these people so much so that you don’t want to leave them.

The only issue I have with the book is the ending. It’s positive, which is a relief after the tragedies throughout the novel. But it seems too perfectly tied up with ribbons and bows to be real.  The author pretty much tied up every loose end, which as a reader I yearned for, but stepping back and looking at it again, it didn’t seem as realistic as it could have been.

I highly recommend I Know This Much Is True. If you click on the picture at the top, you can buy the book through my Amazon affiliate account. I make a little money from the sale but your price is unaffected.

A great book from a very talented author. I can only hope to write this well!

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