I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb

I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb (unabridged audiobook read by George Guidall; 32 hours 15 minutes on 28 discs): Dominick is angry, and has been his whole life. His identical twin brother has paranoid schizophrenia, the woman he loves divorced him, his girlfriend makes him crazy, his stepfather is abusive, and his mother died keeping the secret of his biological father’s identity. Our story begins in 1990 when Dominick’s brother Thomas cuts off his own hand in a public library, believing this sacrifice will somehow prevent the Gulf War. Believed to be a danger to himself and others, Thomas is placed in a maximum security mental institution. Thus begins Dominick’s journey to free his brother from his prison, confront his issues with his parents, and discover the truth about his family history. At first I couldn’t figure out why this book was so danged long, but I was soon drawn in by the characters and their stories. There’s a lot of drama here, a lot more than anything in my personal experience, but I never felt disconnected or disbelieving. The story-within-a-story told by Dominick’s grandfather was especially compelling, being told by such an unlikable narrator. Though it may be long and occasionally feels somewhat scattered, everything comes together in the end for a deeply satisfying conclusion. Dominick, Thomas, and the rest will stay with me for a very long time.

Unrelated aside: When I was in graduate school, my landlord was a skinny, bald, white guy in his late thirties. One day while he was in my bathroom working on the plumbing, he entered my apartment through the front door. Turns out he had an identical twin brother, but man was I confused at first. Because of this, despite loads of evidence to the contrary, I pictured Dominick and Thomas looking more or less like Moby. This is not, I suspect, at all what Lamb intended.

A note on the audio: George and I go way back. He’s not a reader I actively seek out, but he’s extremely talented and makes even the driest prose quite listenable. In short, he’s very reliable, which is fortunate since he’s read basically every book ever. (Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but not by much.) As always, he did a lovely job with these characters. I was a little confused when the book ended on disc 27, but there was a nice little interview between George and the author on disc 28. It’s an interesting session, mostly about the creative process, with a few questions about the story and characters answered by Lamb.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

  1. Onto the list it goes!

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