Saturday, December 19, 2015

I Know This Much is True

I finished Wally Lamb's 897-page tome, I Know This Much is True, two days ago.  And with it completed the TBR Pile Challenge for 2015, leaving unread two of the 14 books on my list, but they're going on some list for 2016 anyway!

I really had no expectations about I Know This Much is True going into it, only that many bloggers whose taste I trust liked it a lot.  It was a rough book at times, but always compelling, and always true and not contrived.  I found the characters interesting, their stories heartbreaking, and their resilience inspiring.  I thought Lamb did a masterful job in developing themes that spanned the various stories, with leitmotifs that connected the different parts together into a coherent whole.

For those of you who don't know the basic outline of the story that Lamb tells in I Know This Much is True, I think this paragraph near the end, in which Dr. Patel, the psychiatrist who helps Dominick, the main character out of the dark forest of his past, describes Dominick's story...
In ancient myths… in stories from cultures as far-flung as the Eskimos and the ancient Greeks—orphaned sons leave home in search of their fathers. In search of the self-truths that will allow them to return restored, completed. In these stories, knowledge eludes the lost child and fate throws trial and tribulation onto his path—hurls at him conundrums he must solve, hardships he must conquer. But if the orphan endures, then finally, at long last, he stumbles from the wilderness into the light, holding the precious elixir of truth. And we rejoice. At last, he has earned his parentage. And for his troubles he has gained understanding and peace. He has earned his father’s kingdom. The universe is his.
This is the story of Dominick, and in many ways, it is also the story of America.  It is a story of race relations, of domination and survival, of the evil of social Darwinism and tribal warfare.  But it is also a story of compassion and love and friendship and family.  I really loved how Lamb allowed each of his characters to be able to tell, in some fashion, his or her story that explained why or how they came to be as they are.  Some people gave in to the dark side more easily than others, but the narrator's compassion helped make some of the really rough stuff more bearable.

And the ending is pure joy.  If you haven't read this book and decide to, don't give up on it midway through.  This is a book where the ending rewards the reader for sticking with it.

Definitely one of the best books I read in 2015.


  1. This really sounds good.

    Your post is making me think just how many stories and books revolve around the theme of sons searching for fathers.

  2. Putting this on my Reading New England challenge list. It's definitely good to know that the ending is joyful -- that would help me get through the tough parts!

  3. Wally Lamb is a favorite and I loved this book, although it's been ages since I read it. Glad you did, too.

    I also highly recommend The Hour I First Believed.

  4. I tired of the grandfather's story while I was reading this one and kind of felt that it could have been vastly reduced without damaging the story. But I did love that ending!

    1. I agree that I didn't find the grandfather's story as compelling as Dominick's but I do think it was essential to the whole.