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I Know This Much Is True: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – April 8, 2008


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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 928 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 edition (April 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061469084
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061469084
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,088 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Tony award-winning Ken Howard (1776, Child's Play) reads I Know This Much Is True with the conviction of a used car salesman and the charm of a seasoned politico. Reminiscent of a former football coach recalling his glory days, Howard's booming, rich voice is a beefy compliment to Lamb's powerful prose. Never to be mistaken as a ventriloquist, Howard makes little distinction when moving in and out of character--his voice barely cracks an octave for dainty female personalities. However, this understatement (so to speak) lends to smooth transitions and believable, down-to-earth narration. (Running time: six hours, four cassettes) --Rebekah Warren --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

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 exploresAmental illness, dysfunctional families, domestic abuseAare 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 novelAthe identity of the twins' father; the mystery of the inscription on their grandfather's tomb; the likelihood of Dominick's reconciliation with his ex-wifeAcontribute to a fully developed and triumphantly resolved exploration of one man's suffering and redemption. BOMC main selection; author tour; simultaneous audio.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Wally Lamb's first two novels, She's Come Undone (Simon & Schuster/Pocket, 1992) and I Know This Much Is True (HarperCollins/ReganBooks, 1998), were # 1 New York Times bestsellers, New York Times Notable Books of the Year, and featured titles of Oprah's Book Club. I Know This Much Is True was a Book of the Month Club main selection and the June 1999 featured selection of the Bertelsman Book Club, the national book club of Germany. Between them, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True have been translated into eighteen languages. Lamb is also the editor of the nonfiction anthologies Couldn't Keep It to Myself: Testimonies from Our Imprisoned Sisters (HarperCollins/ReganBooks, 2003) and I'll Fly Away (HarperCollins, 2007), collections of autobiographical essays which evolved from a writing workshop Lamb facilitates at Connecticut's York Correctional Institute, a maximum-security prison for women. He has served as a Connecticut Department of Corrections volunteer from 1999 to the present. Wally Lamb is a Connecticut native who holds Bachelors and Masters Degrees in teaching from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College. Lamb was in the ninth year of his twenty-five-year career as a high school English teacher at his alma mater, the Norwich Free Academy, when he began to write fiction in 1981. He has also taught writing at the University of Connecticut, where he directed the English Department's creative writing program. Wally Lamb has said of his fiction, "Although my characters' lives don't much resemble my own, what we share is that we are imperfect people seeking to become better people. I write fiction so that I can move beyond the boundaries and limitations of my own experiences and better understand the lives of others. That's also why I teach. As challenging as it sometimes is to balance the two vocations, writing and teaching are, for me, intertwined." Honors for Wally Lamb include: the Connecticut Center for the Book's Lifetime Achievement Award, the Connecticut Bar Association's Distinguished Public Service Award, the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, the Connecticut Governor's Arts Award, The National Institute of Business/Apple Computers "Thanks to Teachers" Award. Lamb has received Distinguished Alumni awards from Vermont College and the University of Connecticut. He was the 1999 recipient of the New England Book Award for fiction. I Know This Much Is True won the Friends of the Library USA Readers' Choice Award for best novel of 1998, the result of a national poll, and the Kenneth Johnson Memorial Book Award, which honored the novel's contribution to the anti-stigmatization of mental illness. She's Come Undone was a 1992 "Top Ten" Book of the Year selection in People magazine and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Best First Novel of 1992. Wally Lamb's third novel, The Hour I First Believed, explores chaos theory by interfacing several generations of a fictional Connecticut family with such nonfictional American events as the Civil War, the Columbine High School shootings of 1999, the Iraq War, and Hurricane Katrina. The book will be published by HarperCollins in November of 2008.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

561 of 597 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Calitri on June 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
Lately, so much contemporary American fiction is disappointing ("best sellers" with trite, hackneyed, formulaic plots and dead middles), so when a book like Wally Lamb's I Know This Much is True comes along, I feel hopeful that others may be possible--probably not often of this caliber, though. I read this book in 12 days while traveling and devoured its 900 pages under beautiful blue skies as well as under 20 watt bulbs, and I loved every single minute and word of it. That was a year ago, and I have not read since then a novel that I can recommend as highly. Do not be scared away by the book's length (or the Oprah club sticker on the cover). I have heard so many people whine that it looks too long and thus they avoid it. What they don't realize is that its length is part of its magic; it reads so smoothly and never slumps. In truth, this is a brilliant multi-layered story and a masterpiece in every sense: its style is poetic and innovative, its characters three dimensional and very real, its imagery absolutely beautiful, and its metaphors perfectly subliminal. This book has been reviewed and reviewed and reviewed here, so if you want to know the plot, read others. I will offer that it has one of the most profound endings I have ever read. But take it from me, this book will not disappoint you. Moreover, it will do something for you that most cannot: it will give you wisdom and awaken your battered heart. I cannot wait to read anything else this wonderful man writes. How he does it, I wish I knew. I am just thankful that he does. Some superlatives are carelessly tossed around, but Wally Lamb IS one of the greatest American authors of all time. This work will stand the test of time.
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149 of 156 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
Like some other reviewers, I was initially a little gunshy about starting to read a 900-plus page book about a pair of twins, one of whom is a paranoid schizophrenic. However, the first chapter graps your attention and the next thing you know, you are halfway through the book and looking forward to coming home to it every night.
Lamb was woven a tapestry of characters who come alive and stay with you, not the glamorous models and young aggressive attorneys of most bestsellers these days, but real people. The book is narrated by Dominic Birdsey, a 40-ish housepainter and former teacher who feels a tremendous burden in caring for Thomas, his identical twin. Often told in flashback, the passages recounting school trips and summer jobs involving the two brothers are so vivid, and so heartwarming, they almost become your own memories.
Perhaps the most original portions of the book revolve around the long-hidden manuscript of Dominic's maternal grandfather, an Italian immigrant, which Dominic reads (as his world crumbles around him) to try and uncover clues regarding his family's past, and specifically regarding his own father's identity. This "book within a book" steals the show, with its coarse Italian style and the unmistakable bravado of the grandfather-narrator.
The novel is tied up almost a little too neatly at the end, as if Lamb saw the size of his manuscript and decided to quickly wrap things up. That's almost a testament to the enjoyment I had in reading the book, as I thought, after 912 pages, that it ended too quickly.
However, as the bibliography at the end makes clear, the author has clearly done his research regarding paranoid schizophrenia and the difficulties faced by caregivers.
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127 of 139 people found the following review helpful By Ratmammy VINE VOICE on February 1, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE by Wally Lamb
Dominick Birdsey learns about his family and himself in I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE, Wally Lamb's epic novel that centers on two men, identical twins, one of whom is mentally ill.
A whopping 897 pages (the trade paper back version), this book goes into great detail the life story of Dominick Birdsey, his paranoid schizoid brother Thomas, their timid mother and their grandfather who started his life in Italy.
The opening chapter takes us to the public library and Thomas has just performed self-mutilation: he has chopped off his hand in response to the Gulf War (Operation Desert Shield). And Dominick is there to rescue Thomas, as he's done their entire life. Thomas is taken to a psychiatric hospital for close observation, but in the mean time, Dominick ends up meeting with the psychiatrists, who help Dominick deal with issues he has with his brother, and soon a whole slew of issues comes rolling off of his tongue. It's an uphill battle, but through the help of the psychiatrists and his grandfather's journal, Dominick learns to deal with his anger and his frustrations over his life, and he comes to terms with a lot of things that he felt resentment over in the past.
There is not enough I can say about this book. It was quite the novel, with so much detail to the life stories of these people, covering three generations from Italy to America. Yet it all helped to tell Dominick's story. It surely was not a light read, but despite the huge volume, I was able to finish this book in less than two weeks. It is fast paced and there's never a dull moment. I'd say this is one of the best books selected by Oprah that I've read so far, and is part of my top 10 list of books read in 2002.
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