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I Know This Much Is True

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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. . . .

One of the most acclaimed novels of our time, Wally Lamb's I Know This Much Is True is a story of alienation and connection, devastation and renewal, at once joyous, heartbreaking, poignant, mystical, and powerfully, profoundly human.

897 pages, Paperback

First published June 14, 1998

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About the author

Wally Lamb

17 books7,199 followers
Wally Lamb is the author of She's Come Undone, The Hour I First Believed, and I Know This Much Is True. Two were featured as selections of Oprah's Book Club. Lamb is the recipient of the Connecticut Center for the Book's Lifetime Achievement Award, the Connecticut Bar Association's Distinguished Public Service Award, the Connecticut Governor's Art Award, the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, the 1999 New England Book Award for Fiction, and the Missouri Review William Peden Fiction Prize.

He was the director of the Writing Center at the Norwich Free Academy, Norwich, Connecticut from 1989-1998, and an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Connecticut’s English Department. He holds a B.A. in Education and an M.A. in English from the University of Connecticut and an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College.

Lamb has served as a volunteer facilitator for a writing workshop at the York Correctional Institute, a maximum-security prison for women, in Niantic, Connecticut since 1999. He has edited two collections of autobiographical essays entitled Couldn't Keep It to Myself: Testimonies from Our Imprisoned Sisters (2003) and I'll Fly Away (2007).

Lamb currently lives in Mansfield, Connecticut with his wife, Christine Lamb, and their three sons, Jared, Justin and Teddy.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 9,939 reviews
Profile Image for Heather.
63 reviews52 followers
April 10, 2008
This is a book I have been meaning to read since 1997. That's actually even before it was officially published, which might seem weird, if you didn't already know that Wally Lamb was teaching writing at my high school at the time he was working on this novel; and if you didn't know that my freshman English class helped "edit" one of the first chapters, back in 1994 or 1995.

The novel tells the story of Dominick and Thomas Birdsey, identical twins dealing with very fraternal problems, namely that Thomas is schizophrenic, and Dominick is almost his last remaining caregiver. The novel is about many things, but most of all, as told from Dominick's perspective, it is about forgiveness of the self, of family, of our pasts, both personal and collective.

I know a number of the people named in the acknowledgements (including several of my high school teachers), and my high school gets a shout-out as well. I didn't know Lamb very well, but I always found him pretty favorable, one of those teachers you like because they never actually have to give you a grade.

I never read this book until now because I also have a connection to one of those named in the dedication: to Sam Deglin, a high school friend who, along with her younger brother Randy, was killed in a freak car accident in front of our high school in January of 1997. I knew she and Randy were named in the dedication, and for this reason, I avoided the book. I didn't want to know how their deaths connected wtih the story, and I didn't want to be reminded at all of my hometown in southeastern Connecticut, where I assumed (correctly, it turns out) the book was set.

I think enough time passed in order for me to feel OK about this book...and in fact, once I began reading, I couldn't stop. The references to people, places, and events of my hometown were only part of the allure: this book is beautifully written, and the structure of the novel - which jumps back and forth between the 1920s, 1940s, 1960s, and 1980s with refreshingly little unnecessary exposition - contributes to the sense that, like the mind of Thomas Birdsey (who I guess you could call the "antagonist"), things are never what they seem, and that sometimes the answers to our biggest fears and questions were right in front of us, all along.

I would recommend this book highly, but it certainly helps to know a thing or two about growing up in Norwich, Connecticut too!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Always Pouting.
568 reviews697 followers
March 2, 2022
I'm glad I finally finished because it was one of those books I kept thinking about when I was in the middle of it and I had trouble getting things done until I knew what would happen. I really enjoyed it, I think it's hard to write a book with such a complex story line which all ends up coming together neatly in the end. Like some how even the mysticism and twists weren't over done and felt like they flowed nicely. I think this is one of my favorites now honestly.
Profile Image for Jaline.
444 reviews1,603 followers
December 12, 2017
This book just went rocketing to my all-time Favourites shelf. I cannot imagine spending over 20 hours reading a book and not loving it.

On my eReader, this book was just 3 pages short of 900 pages, and not one paragraph, not one sentence, not one word in the book could be cut without doing the book (and one’s reading experience) irreparable harm.

The main narrator of this book is Dominick whose twin brother Thomas suffers from mental illness. This we know from the beginning. Throughout the book, both brothers crash and burn a few times as they make their way on their journeys through life. Yet they persist in searching out answers for themselves (and each other) to make those journeys more meaningful and fulfilling. Twinship can be a very complex dynamic at the best of times. These two take complexity to a level I’ve never witnessed before.

A secondary narrator is the twins’ maternal grandfather who dictated and/or wrote out his “life history” before he died. It is fascinating to see the parallels play out between the grandfather’s time and the twins’ time and the authenticity of his voice is remarkable.

This book takes a thorough and honest look at many facets of life: twin-ship, mental health, family dynamics (including secrets – and why they remain secrets), death and grieving, race relations through many decades, and so much more.

Within these pages the story is powerful and moves at a fast pace; the characters have strong and unique voices; the writing is sublime, raw, exceptionally moving – just excellent. This book rates more than 5 Stars but it’s all I have to give . . . along with a treasured spot on my Favourites shelf.
15 reviews23 followers
March 18, 2008
This is one of those books I read that has never left me. After I finished it I just sat in my chair and cryed for a long time. And I can't explain why exactly, as the ending was surprisingly hopeful. It explores the nature of close family relationships and how you can love someone and also hate them and be embarrassed by them, and the guilt that results from these conflicting emotions. The main character has a mother with physical defects which have inhibited her whole life, a brother with severe mental disabilities that have profoundly affected the entire family, and an abusive step-father who damaged everyone under his control. Yet in spite of all the really depressing themes, it is really quite moving and inspirational. It's about survival and forgiveness and atonement. I also loved the secondary story about the grandfather. The book was an astonishing achievement.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,921 reviews35.4k followers
October 27, 2017
$1.99 Kindle special today! This was a GREAT PAGE TURNING STORY!!!!
Just sayin. :).
I’d buy it for $1.99 ... but I already own it.
Sometimes a reader is simply looking for a stay to lose yourself in. This book fits that need.

This was another on of those 5 star books that I guess I never rated!

I wasn't always active on Goodreads you know --
There was a time I read before this site....lol
Profile Image for Laura.
29 reviews
February 19, 2008
901 pages
I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb is by far the best book I've read in a long time. Calling it my favorite is an understatement; as is trying to sum it up in one review.
During the break, all I wanted to do was read. I read about 300 pages a day! I can't describe what exactly made me love the book, but I can guess. First of all, every character was carefully crafted by the author and each forced me to care about what happened to them. The protagonist, Dominick Birdsey, was the perfect unconventional hero. His struggle to stay sane while caring for his schitzophrenic twin brother and a host of other problems was both depressing and inspirational.
Another reason I couldn't put the book down was the intricately woven plot. At one point in the book, I was reading the story of Dominick, who was reading the story of his grandfather, Domenico, who was telling the story of his wife's sister, who was telling the story of her mentor. All of this should have been confusing and impossible to follow, but the author somehow managed to put it all together and keep readers up-to-date. It seemed like he knew exactly when to stop telling one story and get back to another that the reader was wondering about. Also, every part of the plot was necessary, symbolic, and important to fully understanding Dominick's past and present. The book got especially disturbing towards the end, but the happy, and in some ways triumphant, ending ensured I'd never forget this book.
is not for the faint of heart, but is sure to move any reader with one.
Profile Image for Maciek.
558 reviews3,270 followers
February 27, 2013
Wally Lamb's second novel, I Know This Much Is True, was probably a result of the success of his first effort - She's Come Undone, which was selected by Oprah for her book club four years after its initial publication in 1992. His sophomore effort, published in 1998, also got stamped with Oprah's round seal - this can be considered either a blessing or a curse, but one thing is certain: it helps to gain readership, and a lot of it. Oprah is acknowledged for that, and is thanked for her help in the acknowledgments section - albeit among dozens of other people Lamb deemed important, from his publisher and through his teachers students. Even the morning crew at the Sugar Shack Bakery gets a shout out. I guess the bakery had to be acknowledged, as anyone writing such a long novel is sure to get the munchies every now and then.

I Know This Much Is True is the story of two identical twin brothers - Dominick and Thomas. Born minutes apart, but in different decades - the dusk of 1949 and dawn of 1950 - the Birdsey brothers are physical reflections of one another, but develop distinctly different identities: Dominick is bold and aggressive, while Thomas is meek and mild - and develops paranoid schizophrenia. Set in the fictional small town of Three Rivers in Connecticut (which is based on Lamb's hometown of Norwich is the same state), the novel opens with Thomas being admitted to the state psychiatric hospital's maximum security ward after he committed an act of horrible self-harm in the local library, convicted that it will stop the Gulf War from happening (the book opens in October of 1990). What follows is a lenghty family saga, narrated by Dominick, who fights for his brother's sanity - and his own.

What follows is a sweeping saga of the past and present, narrated mostly in the first person by Dominick, who equally protects and despises his minimally younger, paranoid brother. Given the fact that both are in their 40's at the beginning, flashbacks are used liberally to keep the plot moving and suspense in its proper place. There's also a story within a story - Dominick's mother gives him his grandfather's memoir as a gift, which conveniently contains his history as a determined Italian immigrant, and which then is presented alternately with Dominick's first person narration when the flashback material runs out. The New York Times Book review stated that "Lamb clearly aims to be a modern-day Dostoyevsky with a pop sensibility", so the novel contains a whole lot of digressions into various fields: psychology, religion, consumerism, treatment of Native Americans, life in contemporary United States and its foreign policy. But the focus is less on Dostoevsky and more on the pop, and although the digressions are many they are rarely deep and can be swallowed down in one gulp.

Dominick is an unlikable narrator who comes out as perpetually angry and irritated, and from his flashbacks it's clear that he's kind of an asshole. When Dominick meets Thomas's psychiatrist, Dr. Patel, in order to stop his transfer - which he rightly thinks will only further his paranoia - he becomes her patient himself and undergoes a psychoanalysis of sorts. To resolve his own conflicts Dominick must confront his own past, Dr. Patel encourages, which is a neat way of setting the stage for some flashback material from the 50's all the way to the present. These therapeutic sessions with Dr. Patel help the readers warm up to Dominick as they marvel at the horrorshow which Wally Lamb prepared for him, including but not limited to: a father he never knew, an abusive stepfather and a mother who he felt loved the other child more, cross-dressing with a smell of incest (in the attic), sibling cruelty, substance abuse, child pornography, rape and dead babies - luckily there's no rape of dead babies, but at this point I would not be too surprised. It's no wonder adult Dominick turned out to be at best a conflicted individual, and also leads a life which can be described as relatively grim and unpleasant - not really enjoying his job, feeling angry towards the wife who divorced him and trying to make up for the loss by getting it on with a hot gym instructor (who has her own seedy past), while still feeling responsible for his brother - now a grown man, but with a brain full of classic paranoid delusions. He loves Thomas and hates him, at the same time. Sympatheric might be a too strong of a word - Dominick's angry voice becomes understandable. His account becomes compelling and draws one in, and like spectactors at a trainwreck it's difficult to try to stop looking. There's a great scene where young Dominick reminisces how he realized that he and his brother are not the same person, and I felt that that's where their trouble began - they were not the same and one wished that they were, while the other did not.

Approxmately 3/4 through the novel, at the moment when Wally Lamb had my attention he felt the need to make Dominick read his grandfather's memoir - which got lost and then conveniently found just at the right moment. The memoir is written by "Domenico Tempesta, a man of humble beginnings" and is a story of self-success written by the man himself - for posterity. Immediately it becomes obvious that Domenico the elder was an enormous ass who desired only success and did not mind leaving his mother in the Old Country to pursue success in America - at any cost. Domininck hates this man, and it's difficult not to share his contempt for the man who is determined to get what he wants and desires - no matter what would be its price.
The huge problem with the memoir section is that - aside from being an enormous and lenghty act of narrative exposition, which could just as well have been only alluded to and summarized on a few pages instead of continuing to go on for around two hundred - it's that it's almost ridiculously bad. A large part of that is intentional and explained - elderly Domenico was full of delusions of grandeur, and Dominick had to get the thing translated from Italian - and was told that large parts were written in distinctly Sicilian dialect, and left untranslated for lack of English equivalent and also emphasis of authenticity. But the parody screams intentional from the first sentence, and has nothing of the melifluous nature of the Italian language in its style - the only Italian thing about it are the untranslated and italicized words, which are words any human can at least guess the meaning of - unless you haven't seen The Godfather and have no clue what Omerta might mean and did not know that zuppa is a cousin of soup, but even if I don't think anyone will have a problem with the bambino's and signora's of which there are plenty (I think Lamb spares us Domenico talking about the pizza).

But the funniest thing lies in the details. In elderly Domenico's memoir one of the characters is called Ciccolina, ans is "a bowlegged old butcher-woman burdened with a hunchback and breasts that hung from her like a big sacks of semolina". Sad sight, isn't it? But if you'll add just one "i", you'll find yourself looking at a Cicciolina. Doesn't ring a bell? Prepare for an interesting trivia. Cicciolina is the stage name of Ilona Staller, who was born in 1952 and is arguably Italy's best known adult film actress - her fame spread (now that's a word) across the continent, and here in Poland her name became a slangword for a big-breasted female (although it has fallen out of use - or perhaps I've grown up, though I still found it impossible not to make this connection, so perhaps I did not). Aside from having a career in adult entertainment, Cicciolina also entered the world of politics - starting in 1979 as a candidate for Lista del Sole, Italy's Green Party. In 1985 she switched to Parto Radicale, the Italian Radical Party, and was elected to the Italian Parliament in 1987, serving there till the end of her term in 1991, after which she was not reelected. She was famous for not moving away from her career and continuing to produce hardcore porn while serving in the parliament, and delivering political speeches with one breasts exposed. When journalists asked her if she is not concerned about her actions undermining her credibility, she said: "My breasts have never done anyone any harm, while bin Laden's war has caused thousands of victims". She was, of course, damn right.
In 1991, a year after Thomas in the book-world mutiliates himself to stop the Gulf War, Cicciolina also offered to make a sacrifice to stop the war - she offered to give herself to Saddam Hussein "in exchange for world peace" (Saddam did not accept). She renewed her offer in the tumultuous 2002, when Iraq was being suspected of possessing weapons of mass destruction, saying: "I would do it holding my nose and closing my eyes. I would do it for peace". Again, Saddam did not accept - and the situation escalated into another war. In 2006, she offered to give herself to Osama Bin Laden in return for him giving up terrorism. "It is time someone did something about Bin Laden, and I am ready to do it. I am ready to make a deal", she said: "he can have me in exchange for an end to his tyranny". She accurately pointed out that Bin Laden could learn from Hussein's mistakes - but he too did not take Cicciolina up on her offer, and troops kept coming. One might think that with recent polls showing the famous Silvio Berlusconi being tied with other candidates for the Italian PM, he will indeed win the office and La Cicciolina will come out of retirement, once again selflessly promoting peace and humanitarian efforts for the world which could certainly use more love.

But I digress. Even with the memoir's hopelessly bad narrative (which even Dominick dreads reading, although it's his grandpa's history) the main storyline moves smoothly and contains a few emotional bombs, which continue to keep falling on poor Dominick - it's like eating from a pack of chips: we know that the stuff is essentially bad for us and that for every chip there's a whole lot of air, and that our fingers get greasy - but we keep reaching in nonetheless, and crunching the smooth bastards down till they're gone. Munch munch munch munch! But then, as the novel nears the end, everything goes horribly wrong and it almost made me drop the rating to two stars instead of three. Here's what happens:

To sum up: I Know This Much Is True is an overly long novel, with two interesting main characters who cover for the rest of the cast, providing reasonable entertainment without testing the waters too much, but crumbling almost completely in the third act, all of its impact positively evaporating and leaving its readers in wonder at how the author managed to mess up so badly with something so full of promise. Instead of being a memorable work of fiction which I hoped it would be, it was a long and often entertaining but ultimately disappointing novel. I was eyeing Lamb's recent novel, The Hour I First Believed, but the reaction seems to be mixed. It does sound interesting (I was very interested in the Columbine shooting) - but so did this one, and while I do not regret reading it its flaws make me less eager to read more works by Wally Lamb.
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,121 followers
December 17, 2014
If I had an All-Time-Favorites shelf, this book would definitely be on it! Wally Lamb's I Know This Much Is True has addictive characters and is beautifully written with so much depth and feeling with absolutely no boring parts to detract from the story. The only bad thing about reading this book was wondering how the hell the next one will ever measure up! I loved the ending and truly wish it wasn't over!

If you have not read this wonderful novel, you are really missing out, and do not let the 928 pages put you off as they will just zip on by. POWERFUL! UNPUTDOWNABLE! UNFORGETTABLE!

Profile Image for Spider the Doof Warrior.
433 reviews238 followers
June 20, 2013
People keep griping about the F word. It's just a word. i'm more bothered while trying to re-read this book by-
Wrong narrator syndrome. I really want to get into Thomas's head more. Both Domenicos are just not interesting. Who wants to hear about their grandfather? That guy is such a jerk. He's driving me crazy. Who wants to read about someone thinking he's all that, a bag of chips and a value meal?

Another thing is the dialogue is driving me crazy. The characters are just too simplistic. They don't really have a whole lot of facades to them.

Now to continue tormenting myself.


The actual review:

Dang, this book frustrated me. So I took away its stars. It's just like with She's Come Undone. Oprah rants about it, most people love it, but it's full of-
Stereotypes. Every character is a stereotype. The lesbians, the Indian from India doctor, the Black Power/Native Power part black part Native character, the DON'T YOU DARE BE A SISSY stepfather, the long suffering mother.
I just don't think real people are LIKE this, this simplistic and cardboard!

The book suffers from Wrong Narrator Syndrome. Dominick isn't as interesting as his brother, but we get his point of view, then we get to read about his asshole grandfather! He was such a hateful and unsympathetic, dickhole of a character that it was just so unpleasant to read about him. He was full of himself. He was proud to treat the people close to him like steaming dog crap. Why did we even need so MUCH of him anyway?

As I said above, Lamb has to cram every single tragedy in this book he can think of. You have to have mental illness, rape, abuse, more abuse, racism, AIDS, suicide, killing a monkey and then he's got to add even more of that! It's like you are in a boxing ring being punched over and over and not getting a break from all the mega-misery! Same thing with She's Come Undone! Stuff besides rape and abuse happens to people!
It's contrived, it's cringe-worthy. I will not read any more of this poxy writer! People are out of their minds if they think adult books are better than children's books JUST because have adult protagonists. I've read young adult books that tackled these subjects a hell of a lot better.
Profile Image for Traci.
10 reviews19 followers
April 3, 2008
This is my favorite book ever.

I was reading it while I lived in New York, during the 2 weeks I was holed up in my apartment in New Jersey recovering from the shock of 9/11 . . . adjusting to life all alone in a big city with just my baby daughter (who, at that time, I felt some ambivalence about) . . . missing my older two children . . . and mostly learning how to live after extracting myself from a rigid and controlling church experience. I felt very much like I was learning how to live with a consolation prize as a life. I was very, very lost at that time.

The protagonist had also had his life turned upside down by the death of his baby daughter, his wife leaving him and his brother's suicide. The story weaves it's way back and forth from his present to his past and back again as you piece together the story of his life and learn how he got to where he is.

In the end, he's restored.

When I finished the last page of this book, I cried because my time with him was over. I tried to read another book by Wally Lamb but it wasn't the same. I love, love, love the main character in I Know This Much Is True.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rachel.
135 reviews11 followers
May 29, 2008
Ufta. Well...it's a testament to the quality of this book that I was willing to stick it out the entire 900 pages (well, 856, but who's counting?) If you can get past the intimidating bulk and stick it through to the end, there really is some quality writing here that is well worth the time it takes to read.

The plot centers around Dominick Birdsey, the "sane" counterpart to his schizophrenic and paranoid identical twin, Thomas. Most of the novel is dedicated to Dominick acting as an advocate for his brother: Thomas has been admitted to a high security forensic institute and Dominick fights to have him removed while at the same time struggling with his own personal battles. The last third of the book is also a foray into the past as Dominick (and the reader) explores his grandfather's written history and discovers perhaps more than he would have liked to have known about his ancestors.

The author's strong points include well-rounded and extremely interesting characters, a terrific ability to make everything come full circle thematically, and a good ear for dialogue. I can forgive the small bits of mysticism here and there because I felt they weren't there simply for artsiness or filler, but rather to develop character and move the plot along.

I will say that I thought the ending was too "wrapped up." He spelled every little thing out, tied up every single loose end, made everything resolve itself in a nice little package. But I was so invested in the other 840+ pages that it was the characters and their quirks and their heartbreaks and their conflicts, not the ending, that stuck with me.
Profile Image for Theresa Alan.
Author 10 books1,000 followers
May 20, 2020
I first read this book shortly after it came out 22 years ago. I’m a little shocked at how little I remember—I basically just remembered the main idea, which is that identical twin brothers grow up and one, Thomas, is diagnosed with schizophrenia. The other, Dominick, has a different kind of mental anguish that he expresses with anger. His anger and fear comes from always protecting his twin while also wanting Thomas to figure out how to defend himself against verbal assault from their stepfather and the kids at school when they were younger, before the diagnosis.

Both his anger and Thomas’s deterioration have led to unsavory results. The novel starts with Thomas going to a public library and chopping off his hand, but we’re told the story in a way that bounces around with time, including the manuscript left by their grandfather, who died a few months before the twins were born—Dominick has always wanted to know who his father was, but his mother went to her grave without telling him.

As a way to help Thomas, Dominick starts seeing Dr. Patel, a psychiatrist with a degree in anthropology, and he befriends Ms. Sheffer, a social worker in charge of Thomas’s case.

This is a very well-done novel. Our protagonist, Dominick, is flawed and has made and continues to make mistakes, but you’re definitely rooting for him to get better.
Profile Image for Connie G.
1,666 reviews440 followers
July 27, 2016
Although this book is a chunkster at 897 pages, it was so engaging that I didn't want to put it down. Thomas and Dominick Birdsey are identical twins with very different personalities. The book opens in 1990 with Thomas, a paranoid schizophrenic, cutting off his hand as a protest against the Gulf War as he chants the Biblical verse "...and if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off and cast it from thee...". After Thomas is put into a maximum security ward at the state mental hospital, Dominick tries to have his brother moved to a different environment.

Dominick loves his disturbed brother, but feels that Thomas has been a heavy anchor tied to him, holding Dominick down so he's barely able to breathe. He's had to protect the gentle Thomas his whole life. Meanwhile Dominick is trying to cope with his own life falling apart, and is holding a lot of hurt and anger inside. They both are trying to make sense of a childhood with an abusive stepfather and a passive mother. The book goes back to a third generation in the form of a rather melodramatic journal about the life of the men's grandfather, an immigrant from Sicily. The twins' parents are products of poor parenting, and problems continue to the next generation.

The book incorporates religion, mental illness, abuse, divorce, death, parenting, and infidelity into the story. Written in the late 1990s, it also explores issues of that time such as the war, racism, and Native American casinos. Some of the best parts of the book are the conversations between Dominick and Dr Patel. Dr Patel had been counseling Thomas, but soon realized that "there are two young men lost in the woods" and added Dominick to her private practice. Wally Lamb writes great dialogue in a conversational tone, giving the reader the feeling they are having a heart-to-heart talk with the character. Incidents involving Dominick's best friend, fast-talking car salesman Leo, add humor to the book. "I Know This Much Is True" is a page-turner, and is highly recommended.
Profile Image for Kristen.
37 reviews7 followers
January 13, 2009
Lots of firsts with me and this book:
1. The longest book I've ever read (898 pages).
2. The most pages I've ever read in a day (300)
3. The first time I've literally had to put the book down and close my eyes so I didn't cry on it...

Books get to me, I admit it. And in the past year or so, I've read quite a few books that got to me...but nothing like this. Hands down, the best book I've ever read in my life. I could not stop reading.

So my friends and I always joke about how we read depressing books, and this book would fit in that category, yet I wasn't and am not depressed. In fact, I almost feel hopeful, as if there's hope for all of us. If Dominick can find happiness, who can't?
Profile Image for Taylor.
193 reviews11 followers
April 26, 2007
The point of view, the colloquial style, the brutal light in which Lamb paints Dominick's life -- as the identical twin who is not the schizophrenic, as the survivor of abuse, as a parent that lost a child to SIDS -- is awesome. It's not a difficult read, but it can be really gut wrenching at times.

HOWEVER. It all works out. In the last couple of chapters, everything is made right and the good guy wins. I got so angry. Sure, not everything is perfect, but it is much closer than it would ever be in reality. That's what really got me -- this book did such a good job of slicing though the gritty reality and then BAM! we have resolution on all counts, healing is happening left, right, and center, and everything is just hunky-dory.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
9 reviews
April 30, 2008
In the first few chapters I would have given this a 5. Interesting plot, but way too long and ridiculous. The plot twists got more and more far-fetched. A page-turner--have to give it that--but by the 500th page (there are 900+) I started skipping around (too many fragmented stories everywhere, between the flashbacks and the entire journal of the narrator's grandfather) just to find out what was going to happen, without all the extra details. The interaction among characters was intriguing, but it got to the point where many were downright unlikable/unbelievable, thanks to their outrageous/disgusting actions.
Profile Image for Liz.
189 reviews57 followers
November 26, 2016
My friend Ron recommended this book to me, saying he thought it was something that I would enjoy. I owe him my thanks because he was right, although I didn’t exactly enjoy it… I rather loved it. I took so much from this story that I hardly know where to begin with a review.

This is what an exceptional author does: they put me inside the characters so that I know them and feel them for who they are and where they’ve been. Dominick is as rich a character as I’ve encountered in a long time and even though I couldn’t relate specifically to the events in his life, his voice is so vivid and authentic that I feel like I know him… and his pain, his anger, become mine.

So here are my rambling thoughts and interpretations, pared down to a relatively jumbled paragraph which still only scratches the surface…

The burden of love. Dominick’s identical twin Thomas suffers from a schizophrenia and is dependent on his twin to look out for his well being. Dominick finds himself paralyzed by the simultaneous desire for and fear of detachment from Thomas, so that he himself can live a more normal life. Guilt. A kind of survivor’s guilt, as the twin who escaped mental illness. Did he not protect his brother enough as a child and is he the reason behind Thomas’s illness? Anger. An abusive and dysfunctional childhood, a tragic loss in his adult life, feeling like he’ll drown being tethered to his brother. Who would not be angry in this situation? Unable to move on. Feeling like the world is out to screw him. It’s this very anger that makes him despise himself. Forgiveness. This is what Dominick needs the most. Release… to forgive and be able to move forward. Yet how can he forgive when he holds so much anger inside of him?

The beauty of this story is in watching as Dominick, after losing his way time and time again, finally starts to make his way “out of the woods.” His entire life this man has been frozen in those moments from his childhood, which are revealed via flashbacks throughout the book. He spends so much time mired down by his anger and fear that when begins to discover the idea of acceptance and letting go, I felt that weight coming off my own shoulders.

She reached for my hand. Squeezed it. “I learned something very useful today,” she said.

“Yeah? What’s that?”

“I learned that there are two young men lost in the woods. Not one. Two.” She gave me one of those half-smiles of hers – one of those non-committal jobs. ���I may never find one of the young men,” she said. “He has been gone so long. The odds, I’m afraid, may be against it. But as for the other, I may have better luck. The other young man may be calling me.”

This is a lengthy book but it is worth almost every page. I say “almost” because I did feel that grandfather Tempesta’s memoirs went on for too many pages and interrupted the flow in the second half. There is much to be gleaned from it, however, and in the end it wasn't enough for me to give this book anything less than five stars.

I’m going end this review with an excerpt from a song that has always spoken to me and which I feel is very apropos to this story, U2’s Stuck in a Moment:

I was unconscious, half asleep
The water is warm till you discover how deep
I wasn't jumping
For me it was a fall
It's a long way down to nothing at all
You've got to get yourself together
You've got stuck in a moment
And now you can't get out of it
Don't say that later will be better now
You're stuck in a moment
And you can't get out of it.
Profile Image for NILTON TEIXEIRA.
790 reviews243 followers
August 13, 2020
This book is recommended for drama lovers. It’s a full plate with plenty of second helpings.

Triggers: mental illness, emotional and physical abuse (including rape), animal cruelty, sexism, religion...

I had this book sitting on my shelf since its release (1998!). I have some older books waiting for my attention and that is something that does not bother me. Seriously. I feel some comfort knowing that a certain book is at my reach.
But I’m so glad that I have finally decided to read it. I don’t think that I would have appreciated this book back then (1998), as much as I have right now.
What pleased me the most was the author’s writing style. I was totally absorbed from the beginning. It’s absolutely engaging. The structure is brilliant.
This is a very heartbreaking story, but not one that I would call depressing.
There is so much drama and sadness but the writing is superb. The dialogues are great.
On the last 5 or 3 pages of chapter 35 there is a small scene involving animal cruelty that I thought was not necessary. It added nothing more to that particular character. As for myself, I can’t stand animal cruelty, no matter how small a scene is, so I was very disappointed about it. Regardless, it did not diminish my whole impression of this book and I do think that this is a terrific work of fiction, and perhaps one of the best books that I’ve read.
Again, this is full of dramas. There isn’t a break of joy until the very end. But the writing is so good that the amount of sadness did not bother me.
I do have a twin brother, but we are fraternal, so I did feel some connection at some level.
I’m looking forward to watching the HBO adaptation, but I have heard that they changed the ending but I hope that they were faithful to the book.
I was very pleased with the conclusion of this book and I had to holdback my tears as I was reading in public.
19 reviews3 followers
November 17, 2009
This book could have been about 500 pages shorter. In addition to constantly repeating himself, as though you may have forgotten the relevant lessons, or stories, or who the characters are from 100 pages back, the writing is painfully slow... until the last 15 pages when life moves at lightening speed and everything gets wrapped up with a big shiny bow by a sentence or two saying how everything worked out for all of the characters for the best over the last several years. Lamb's female characters are also distressingly uni-dimensional and flat. It's tempting to say that this is because it's the main character's voice, but Lamb spends enough time in a voice outside of the this character to do better than that. Add She's Come Undone to this, and it's clear that he just doesn't write women well at all. Lamb also attempts a story within a story (grandpa's memoir) that sort of magically takes on the same voice and perspective as the main character's, despite the italics and different font to tell you that the speaker is a different person. How could this have won so many awards? Lamb has butchered an interesting story concept with poorly executed, predictable, repetitive, and trite writing. Editors and author fell down on this one. I'm officially done with Lamb. Skip it.
Profile Image for Jason Gehring.
23 reviews10 followers
July 7, 2008
another book that was like a sucker-punch to the gut. even with 900+ pages, i didn't want this one to end, though it ended beautifully. cried again at this one, which is rare. and it contains one of my favorite written sentences. i didn't care if it is an oprah book. i loved "she's come undone," but this book is leagues better.
Profile Image for Judy.
Author 11 books184 followers
June 7, 2008
Lamb's tale of one man dealing with his twin brother's schizophrenia is honest and true to life. Spanning decades and making a number of digressions (a grandfather's biography, a flashback to when Dominick realizes he and his brother are not the same person), the story was always engaging.

The description of Dominick's infant daughter's death at three weeks is heart wrenching. Even sadder is his indulgence in a "what if" fantasy seven years later, as he imagines taking her to dancing lessons, something he would have done if she hadn't died.

At the time I read it, I had finally come to the realization that my husband and I would not be having any more children and I was feeling very sorry for myself. On reading that passage, I realized that Dominick's wistful fantasy was my real life. My little girl was alive and well and I was able to take her to dancing lessons and soccer practice and kindergarten and everything else little girls do. I never felt sorry for myself again after that.
Profile Image for Bill.
289 reviews93 followers
April 27, 2014
I absolutely loved this book and cried my eyes out during the last 60 pages. This book was an experience! So much has been written about this book how much can I add?

For me the emotional complexity and intensity of the story instantly pulled me in and relentlessly riveted my attention through the 897 pages. But the intensity of my emotions was extremely mixed and volatile. By page 250 I wanted to abandon the book altogether as I encountered some powerful emotional reactions to rape, child abuse, heinous domestic violence and SIDS. So many bad things happened to so many people in this story! By page 480 I was an emotional wreck and at times had trouble physically touching the book. The first 480 pages of this book were depressing! Thankfully I was poked and prodded along by my Goodreads reading partner and stuck with it. The turning point for me occurred specifically on pages 483-484 – a green, spring shoot of hope and humanity and by page 859 redemption, reconciliation and forgiveness. The first half of the book was such an arduous journey but the second half and conclusion was well worth the mental angst.

The concepts of forgiveness and redemption are critically significant and are woven into the tale with increasing intensity and clarity as the book moves to its conclusion. Could you forgive the college man who angrily rapes his girlfriend in the back seat of her car? Could you forgive the father that mentally and physically abuses your children? Could you forgive a cousin who conspires to set you up for a crime you did not commit? Could you forgive the husband that rapes his wife because she is "his"? Could you forgive the brother who can be mean and abusive to his twin brother ... the twin brother who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia? Would the context of their past lives provide the leeway and latitude necessary for you to forgive their terrible abuses and transgressions? This book tackles some very difficult relationship issues and so much more. These questions and situations fueled my moral dilemmas, emotional entanglements and quandaries as I read the book, creating such intense angst and tension for me.

Truth be told, I was very intimidated by the length of the book. I have not read an 800+ page book since my college days over 30 years ago! And the little economist voice in my head repeated over and over - the law of diminishing returns, the law of diminishing returns, law of diminishing returns. Could I apply this economic law to a literary work? Was it necessary to capture infinitesimally minute, incremental details of each character to build the story? Yes indeed it was! All 897 pages of this book were absolutely necessary to fully elucidate and explore the storyline.

My very first Wally Lamb adventure was She’s Come Undone, a wonderful read with a central hero figure in Delores Price. This book was equally satisfying and accomplished but I could not identify any hero figures in this read. What I did experience was deeper understanding and empathy for the human condition, the emotional complexity of the human mind and how in the end, generally we all strive to do what is right given our assumptions and perceptions at the time.

I highly recommend this book and would rate it a 5+++ if I could. But do be prepared for a very thought provoking, emotionally stimulating and fully satisfying adventure!
Profile Image for Dustin.
439 reviews148 followers
August 19, 2014

I finished it last night and it's good to be done. I enjoyed it overall, but it had a lot of potential that Lamb pretty much squandered, IMO. I mean no disrespect to the author, I'm just being honest. It's all I can be. There were some themes (such as mental illness and genuine forgiveness) that felt underdeveloped and sadly lacking.

Additionally, much of the final moments were neatly wrapped up, contrived, and very much reminds me of your typical Hollywood ending. And don't get me started on

I am interested in some of Lamb's other work, but reading I Know This Much Is True isn't making me particularly anxious to pick them up any time soon.
Profile Image for Patricija || book.duo.
510 reviews361 followers
October 9, 2021
„ - Jūs skrupulingai stengiatės suinventorinti visas kančias ir neteisybes, kurias patyrėte iš kitų. Galima jus vadinti kruopščiu koroneriu.“


Skrodimo stalas. Ir skalpelis Wally Lamb rankoje. Ant stalo čia telpa kur kas daugiau, nei galvoji, kol nepradedi analizuoti. Broliai ir tėvai, seneliai ir patėviai, alkoholikai ir išdavikai, kareiviai ir psichiatrai, religiniai fanatikai ir šventieji, Amerika ir indėnai, mirę ir mirštantys viduje. Knyga skaitosi stebėtinai lengvai ir greitai – jei reikėtų lyginti, sakyčiau, kad beveik Irvingiškai. Tik autorius sau leidžia kur kas mažiau nei pastarasis – atsitraukia, nesikiša, dažnai atrodo, kad čia jo visai nėra. Tik kalba ir kalba, o visa knyga kaip ilgas psichoterapijos seansas – praeitis ir ateitis, dabartis ir atmintis pinasi į tokį mazgą, mainosi vietomis kaip įgudusio mago rankose – prireiks atidumo, kad atpažintum, kur prasideda viena ir baigiasi kita. Jau senokai neskaičiau taip smulkmeniškai išanalizuotų veikėjų portretų – Lamb skalpeliu rėžia taip giliai, kad vietomis net pabosta. Ypač jo noras įtraukti knygą knygoje – tikriausiai pagrindinė priežastis, kodėl romanas 4*, ne 5*.

Vienas iš pagrindinių mano priekaištų – dramatiškumas. Nepasakytum jokiu būdu, kad čia nieko nevyksta, bet knyga man kelia panašią emociją, kaip žinau, jog daugeliui kėlė Mažas gyvenimas – tiek kančios, kad po kiek laiko beveik atbunki. Tiek skausmo, toks jų cunamis, kad pavargsti kapstytis ir beveik nebenori galvos laikyti paviršiuje – kokia prasmė? Tuoj užgrius dar viena. Nes tikrai – viską, ką blogiausio gali sugalvoti, W.Lamb sugrūda į vienos šeimos gyvenimus. Nevardinsiu, nenorėdama sugadinti skaitymo malonumo, bet beveik galima susidaryti siaubo bingo, o skaitant braukyti – didelė tikimybė, kad didžiausi ir baisiausi jūsų baubai čia vienu ar kitu pavidalu tikrai pakels galvas. Po kiek laiko man tiesiog nebeveikė. Ir laikausi nuomonės, kad knygai nebuvo reikalo išsitęsti į 900 puslapių – tiesą sakant, nesu sutikusi tokios, kuriai reikėtų. Ties 700 jau pajaučiau poreikį greičiau užbaigti – net kai įdomu, net kai autoriaus talentas nepaneigiamas, net kai veikėjai gąsdinančiai tikri. Natūraliai nebeturėjau emocijų, kurias dar galėjau šitam romanui skirti. Bet skaityti vis tiek rekomenduoju – puikiai suprasiu visus, kuriems kris prie metų geriausiųjų. Man ne taip wow, bet vis tiek romanas didis įvairiomis prasmėmis. Kažkada bandysiu susikaupti ir serialui.
Profile Image for Ron Spence.
2 reviews2 followers
July 13, 2009
I found this novel to be a well (if simply) written page turner that is ultimately undermined by its contrivances and by the author's seeming inability to let his readers draw their own conclusions or puzzle things out without having every last theme and story thread laid out explicitly. And then repeated in case the reader didn't catch on. I've read coloring books that are less insulting to a reader's intelligence. The melodrama of the novel is off the charts as well. To whit: Mental illness, child abuse, rape (and more rape and still more rape), AIDS, child murder, SIDS, amputation (not once but twice), a deadly mine collapse, a deadly volcano eruption, murder by ground glass in food (speaking of contrivances), suicide by drowning, suicide by gunshot, domestic violence, death by castration, death by falling from a roof, severe injury from falling from a roof (a completely separate event), bestiality, car accident, cross dressing, voyeurism, and (of course of course) incest. I'm sure I'm leaving out at least half a dozen atrocities, but who's counting? Oh, I know who. Wally Lamb. Counting his money. Thanks, Oprah!
Profile Image for May 舞.
283 reviews4 followers
June 1, 2020
I don't know what to say. This has been one of the most realistic, heartbreaking, and well-written books that I've ever read in my life. The characters were diverse, had distinct voices and unique personalities. Serious issues were discussed, including but not limited to: mental illness, racism, toxic masculinity, sexism, abuse, and war. None of them was handled lightly and most were expanded upon and masterfully portrayed.
I can easily say that I Know This Much is True is a new book on my 'favourites' shelf.
900 pages in 5 days. I'm half-dead :'D

“That’s the trouble with survival of the fittest, isn’t it, Dominick? The corpse at your feet. That little inconvenience.”

“He’s the sick one,”I reminded her. “I’m the other one.”
“Yes, yes,”she said. “The tough guy. The not-so-nice twin. Which doesn’t necessarily make you well, Dominick. Does it? Look around, my friend. Here you are, in therapy.”
She saw it over and over again in her male patients, she said—it could probably qualify as an epidemic among American men: this stubborn reluctance to embrace our wholeness—this stoic denial that we had come from our mothers as well as our fathers. It was sad, really tragic. So wasteful of human lives, as our wars and drive-by shootings kept proving to us; all one had to do was turn on CNN or CBS News.
And yet, it was comic, too—the lengths most men went to to prove that they were “tough guys.” The gods must look down upon us, laughing and crying simultaneously.

Profile Image for Pam.
82 reviews2 followers
January 11, 2008
Wow, what a fantastic book. I read the last 550 pages of this book in one day, disregarding the myriad other things I was supposed to get done. Excellent writing -- every time I thought I knew what was going to happen next (and hoping it didn't, because that would be too predictable) he threw in a curveball or two. The ending actually seemed a little too happy for the rest of the book, but had it ended any other way I might've wanted to jump off a bridge.

Parts of the book were so brutally human that they were difficult to get through, but difficult in the kind of way that wrenches your heart and connects you even deeper to the story. I will be thinking about this book for weeks to come...this is what good writing is supposed to be.
Profile Image for Lynn.
246 reviews40 followers
June 14, 2016
This book is loved by many but I am not among them. The premise: identical twins only one of whom is schizophrenic, attracted me to this book. However the portrayal of schizophrenia was not 100% accurate which spoiled the book for me. On top of that I did not like the mixed up brother, abusive step-father, horrific grandfather, weak mother, betraying wife, sick brother, or any other of the unsavory characters. If I cannot root for at least one character (no matter how flawed) I cannot root for the book either.
Profile Image for Ieva Andriuskeviciene.
213 reviews110 followers
October 4, 2021
Knyga tiek daug talpinanti savyje. Mano akimis pagrindinė tema- kaltė ir pareiga. Šeimos, giminės, kraujo ryšio netgi religines, biblijinės kaltės ir kaip su ja gyventi. Kur atsakomybė tarsi prakeiksmas spaudžia ir nėra kaip jos išvengti. Apie brolišką ryšį ir savęs supratimą kaip atskiro žmogaus ne tik vieno iš dvynių. Ką daryti kai tavo antroji pusė “sulūžusi”? Kaip gyventi kai pats vienas negali tiesiog egzistuoti, o brolis labai stipriai serga psichine liga? Knyga labai taikliai aprašanti šizofreniją ir kaip ji paveikia visus aplink esančius. Sąmokslo teaorijas ir kaip jos gimsta sergančiojo galvoje. Ar nėra taip, kad tavo antroji kraujo pusė suvalgys tave iš vidaus? Gal tu esi kaltas dėl jo būsenos? O galbūt tu esi tas “brokuotasis” nors iš išorės ir taip neatrodo?
Mažas spoileris, bet jis yra ant knygos nugarėlės ir realiai knygos pirmame puslapyje. Vieną 1990ųjų dieną šizofrenija sergantis Tomas ateina į biblioteką ir pasimeldęs nusipjauna sau ranką tarsi auką taikai. Čia prasideda Dominiko ir Tomos šeimos epopėja sekanti kelių dešimtmečiū ir kartų gyvenimu. Dominikas piktas, toks biški homofobas, biški rasistas, karšto būdo. Tikras tikras žmogus, o ne knyginis personažas. Visas jo gyvenimas įtakotas brolio ligos. Tomas patenka į sistemos prarają ir uždaromas ne į įprastą ligoninę kur visada buvo patalpinamas po epizodų, o į šalies griežčiausią psichiatrinę/kalėjimą. Ar savęs sužalojimas gali virsti nusikaltimu prieš valstybę? Ar įmanoma ištraukti Tomą iš šitos prarajos? Ta tokia beprasmė kova su Amerikos sistema ir biurokratija
Knyga susideda iš daug dalių, bet ji labai vientisa ir nėra fragmentiška. Atsiskleidžia dvynių vaikystė smurtinėje aplinkoje. Ar įmanomam nuo to išsivaduoti ir atleisti kaltininkams? Dominiko sugriuvusi santuoka, gedulas dėl praradimų, niekur nevedantys pakaitiniai santykiai su dabartine mergina. Antroje dalyje veiksmas nusikelia į 20ojo amžiaus pradžia kur sužinome šeimos šaknis ir kaip jų senelis atkeliavo iš Italijos į Ameriką
Man labiausiai palietę skyriai yra kur Dominikas kalbasi su savo psichoterapeute ir bando prisikasti prie savo pykčio ir kaltės šaknų
Labai įdomuus religinis aspektas ir kaip tai svarbu knygoje, ypač Tomui. Taip pat knyga puikus laikmečio atspindys, politinis kontekstas. Persijos įlankos karai, sovietų sąjungos griūtis, Berlyno siena, AIDS epidemija. Viskas persipina su asmenine šeimos drama
Neprailgo nei puslapis, tiesiog suvalgiau. Galėjo ir dar ilgiau būti. Pabaiga tokia reikšminga ir viską gražiai užbaigianti. Rekomenduoju imti nieko nelaukiant, nebijokit apimties.
Pagal ją pastatytas HBO mini serialas su nuostabiuoju Mark Ruffalo kuris vienas vaidina abu brolius, gavęs nemažai apdovanojimų.
Kadangi visada stengiuos įdėti muziką prie knygos, šį kartą iš serialo soundtracko. Beach house “On the sea”https://youtu.be/0qz0IJXQ720
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