Book Review: "I Know This Much is True" by Wally Lamb

"I Know This Much is True" by Wally Lamb is a dramatic and mysterious story about a man named Domenico Birdsey who has spent his life attempting to protect his identical twin brother and has learned some very hard lessons along the way. The story follows this man through his struggles with his brother, who has become severely mentally ill, his revelations about his past and his fears about the future. At first glance, it appears to be a novel that is simply about this man’s love and resentment for his ill brother, but it turns out to be so much more.

In "I Know This Much is True", Wally Lamb walks the reader through the hardships that families must face when a loved one is suffering from a mental illness. Domenico’s twin brother Thomas is severely schizophrenic. Domenico feels responsible for his afflicted brother and goes through numerous trials in his attempt to save Thomas from himself and the world around him.

Despite the resentment he begins to feel for his brother, his love for him drives him to try to provide a better life for Thomas. This vein of the story is extremely relatable for anyone who has loved ones suffering from mental illness. It is rather dramatic.  However, Thomas’ behavior and Domenico’s reaction to it are extremely realistic. Lamb has done a good job creating this heartbreaking and identical duo.

Domenico is also struggling to learn more about his past while he is helping his brother. His family history has been largely hidden from him for most of his life and he is unaware of the identity of his father. With some help from a therapist, he begins to search for the truth and finds some rather interesting information along the way.

Some of this digging into the past involves Domenico and Thomas’ childhood and the rest involves his mother and his detestable Papa. A lot of this history that is dug up is highly unbelievable when compared with the gritty reality of the Domenico’s present life. However, it lends the novel a historical angle and almost makes it feel as if you are reading two novels at once, which was a nice touch on Lamb’s part.

"I Know This Much is True" is a lengthy novel, but the story is engrossing, so it is a relatively easy read. There are so many subplots that any reader is bound to find something to relate to in this novel. Wally Lamb did a good job pulling a very complicated story together and making all of the pieces fit satisfactorily. There are a lot of good lessons and heartbreaking moments in this novel.  It may be a good idea to grab a box of tissues and be prepared to do some soul searching with Domenico Birdsey.

Shelly Barclay

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