Sunday, April 15, 2007

I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb
Harper Touch, 1998
Fiction; 894 pgs

Started: 04/09/2007
Completed: 04/15/2007
Rating: * (Very Good)

First Sentence: On the afternoon of October 12, 1990, my twin brother Thomas entered the Three Rivers, Connecticut Public Library, retreated to one of the rear study carrels, and prayed to God the sacrifice he was about to commit would be deemed acceptable.

Reason for Reading: My 3rd and final selection for the Chunkster Challenge. I added this to my list of challenge books because it was one I had heard great things about but had not gotten around to reading. It was about time it gave up its spot on my TBR shelf.

Comments: All of his life, Dominick Birdsey has had to take care of his twin brother in one way or another. Thomas was the weak one, the brother who could not stand up for himself. Dominick, on the other hand, was the tough brother, the one who knew he had to fight and stand up for himself if he was going to avoid being a victim like his brother.

In his multi-layered story about family, loss, betrayal, responsibility, and self-discovery, Wally Lamb takes readers on an emotional roller coaster of a ride as Dominick narrates his family’s story, the story of his difficult childhood, the onset of his brother’s mental illness, and deep into the family’s history, that of his grandfather, grandmother and the birth of his mother. The stories are intertwined, often sharing similar themes and features.

Dominick, much like his brother Thomas who suffers from schizophrenia, is like a lost soul. He battles the anger in his heart his own guilt over past actions, both as a boy and as an adult. It is in helping Thomas after his brother is placed in a maximum-security psychiatric hospital that he begins to finally search for what it is he needs to find to heal his own wounds. He must face his own demons no matter how difficult he finds the task. Author Wally Lamb pulls no punches in creating characters that are very real and true to life. Their vulnerability, flaws, and frustration with their lot in life make them even more than just characters out of a book. As upset and frustrated as I got at times with the main character, I could also see where he was coming from, the reasons behind his behavior and actions. I was less sympathetic with the grandfather, who I disliked throughout the story; however, as Dominick discovered, there was a lesson to be learned even from him.

There were a couple of moments it felt like the author was throwing in everything but the kitchen sink by way of what his various characters when through. Yet it somehow worked and did not overburden the story. I Know This Much Is True is well worth reading. As Dr. Patel might say, it a story about destruction . . . And renovation.

Favorite Part: I liked the way the author weaved history and current events of the time into his story. He kept in short and concise, which made the addition seem natural in the narrative. It also helped keep the story’s time line in perspective.

I was most relieved when social worker Lisa Sheffer came on scene, followed by Dr. Patel. Both women earned my respect instantly and it never wavered throughout the novel. I was not too keen on the main character in the beginning, his arrogance, machismo, and anger combined were a off for me, and so the coming of these two women in particular, two characters I could relate to in some respects, eased me through a rough patch in my reading of the novel.

Read what Beastmomma has to say here.

Miscellaneous: Finishing my final book for the Chunkster Challenge comes with a big sense of relief. I was fortunate to pick three books that I enjoyed very much and were worth every page. I decided at the beginning of the month that I would not worry about reading the alternate books. I am involved with too many other challenges right now (overcommitted, you say?) and think I will focus on those now. Many thanks to Bookfool over at Bookfoolery and Babble for hosting this great challenge!

As a side note: Last night, Anjin and I finally got around to watching another one of our Netflix movies. We saw The Holiday, which we both enjoyed. It's a romantic comedy--not one of the best, but I'm glad we rented it.


  1. Great review, Wendy! I felt the same way about this book as you did and rated it very close to what you rated it (slightly higher at 4.25). Congratulations on finishing the Chunkster Challenge!

  2. wow, I didn't remember that this book was so long! I think when I was younger I didn't pay as much attention to pages as I do now. I had more time to read, I think. Now I have to wrestle the time into my schedule. I do remember that I really enjoyed it, though. It was interesting, and I likely would have gave it about 4 stars back then as well (maybe even a little higher), but I wasn't rating books back then and while in some cases I have a list, it is an incomplete one in many cases.

    Congrats on completing the Chunkster Challenge!

  3. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. So much time is invested in "chunksters" that one would hope they would be worth it. :) I read this years before I started keeping a record of my readings (2003). I do remember that it was good; although, I've never recommended it. Congrats on completing a tough challenge!

  4. Congrats on finishing the challenge. "I Know This Much is True" is also my last one for the Chunksters, (but I may attempt one more) and I'm about 100 pages from the end.

    At first I wished Lamb hadn't included the grandfather's story, because there was already so much going on and it was sooo long, but now I'm finding that, even as nasty as he is, it's my favorite part.

    Good review.

  5. Thank you, Wendy. It does feel good to have completed another challenge. :-)

    Kailana - Thanks! It is a long book, but it went fairly quickly.

    Joy - Thank you! I Know This Much Is True wasn't always a pretty read, but I am glad I read it. It might not have been the wisest reading selection after reading April Witch as both took on such difficult subject matters. I think something light will be in order soon!

    Kookiejar - Thanks so much! You're almost there yourself! I can't go so far as to say the grandfather's story is my favorite part--it's really my least, but I came to appreciate it after it a while. :-)

  6. LOL "I read this years before I started keeping a record of my readings." What was I thinking here??? LOL Where did "years" come from? I guess that's what happens when you have too many thoughts running through your mind or you simply don't preview. :) ... Joy is off to preview comment ...

  7. I read this book a long time ago. I liked it very much at the time and have been thinking of rereading it since I have a professional interest in how mental illness affects the family members. Good review. I'm still plodding through my second Chunkster and haven't written the review of the first. Fortunately like yourself, I liked the two I've gotten to.

  8. Joy - That happens to me all too often, I'm afraid! LOL

    Sarala - Thank you. I definitely think the book is worth a reread (maybe not for awhile in my case!). I look forward to reading your reviews on your chunksters!

  9. I'd never heard of this book before, but it sounds very interesting. Another one for The List!

  10. Quixotic - If you do get a chance to read it, I hope you enjoy it!


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