I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

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Some time last year I was in a reading rut, I didn’t want to read any of my books, nothing seemed interesting to me. I was telling the bff and she lent me this book. I put it on my bookshelf meaning to read it, but then it just ended up staying there as I got busy with everything involved with moving. I didn’t pick it up until recently and at first I was kind of like ok..and then I got to the end and it was so emotional. I really did not expect to be crying, but I was just sobbing.

Spoilers ahead!

The story centered around Dominick, the narrator, whose brother, Thomas, is Schizophrenic and his attempts to get his brother out of the mental hospital after an incident and into an assisted living placement. His story goes back and forth and back and forth from the present to the past. It was really interesting to see the relationship with his brother, that love/hate relationship he had with his twin. The relationships with his Ma, and with his stepfather, Ray and how that relationship evolved throughout their life.

  • I loved my brother. I hated him. There was no solution to who he was. No getting back who he had been.
  • control: that was the hot button that pushed me to my decision. Suddenly, that gel-haired surgeon was our stepfather and every bully and power broker that Thomas had ever suffered. You tell him, Thomas, I thought, you fight for your fucking rights!
  • his need to be with his twin no matter who they had become or where their lives were after their mother’s death
  • story of my life: acting like a hothead, especially when it came to Thomas
  • realizing in hindsight that he wasted the last weeks he actually could have had with his brother. But that summer, he wanted to be his own person; now misses that his brother actually cared about him
  • I couldn’t think of any profound farewells for my brother. How do you day goodbye to a polished box? To the half of yourself that about to be covered over with dirt? I’m sorry, Thomas. I was mean because I was jealous. I’m sorry.
  • it was sad to read the way Ray treats his stepkids, and the way Dominick keeps waiting for his real dad to show as a child and even into adulthood
  • Dominick’s recognizing that he was a bully
  • Dominick realizing that he both loved and hated his ma for making him be the guard of Thomas his entire life
  • Dominick finding out about Ray visiting him every day since his accident, his upset over Thomas’ sentencing
  • his confronting of Ray, that he felt guilty because they had been a team that bullied Thomas together. That they were the one whom Thomas thought was after him, trying to kill him. That they were the CIA, Noreiga, etc.
  • Ray: “you weren’t accusing me of anything that I hadn’t already accused myself of…I just never understand that kid. Me and him, we were like oil and water…”
  • “Things get clearer when you’re older,” [Ray] said. “Of course, by then it’s too late.”

When he starts to talk to Dr. Patel, the therapist assigned to his brother’s case, she starts to realize that Dominick has a lot of anger and rage in him that needs to come out and convinces him to talk to her since she didn’t think she could save Thomas, but that she could still save Dominick. In his therapy sessions, he learns to confront his past, which includes delving into his relationship and failed marriage with Dessa, the death of their child, reading a manuscript written by his grandfather who had passed away before he was born to learn more about where he came from as his mother had never wanted to tell him.

  • as if that [miscarriage] was the same thing as having her – seeing and holding and changing her and then losing her. A lot of people did that: prescribed pregnancy as the answer to our grief. People assumed the feel and sound and smell of her was disposable. Replaceable. As if all Dessa and I had to do was erase over our daughter like a videotape.
  • his talking about his wife leaving him the entire time and you wonder why and the more you read, the more you realize that it was his fault; his getting vasectomy without consulting her after the death of their baby, refusing to talk to her or comfort her when she needed it.
  • “Grief has no gender…” – Dr. Patel
  • “If you look for fairness when it comes to schizophrenia, it will be a futile search. No patient or patient’s family deserves this affliction.” – Dr. Patel
  • “…that the stream of memory, may lead you to the river of understanding. And understanding, in turn, may be a tributary to the river of forgivness” – Dr. Patel
  • maybe that was the big cosmic joke: you could spend your whole life banging your head against the wall and all it boiled down to was fortune-cookie philosophy. Go with the flow.
  • Domenick: “Fate’s test case, maybe. Schizophrenic brother, dead baby daughter, girlfriend who…But, hey, shit happens, right?” Dr. Patel: “It does, yes,” she agreed. “Sometimes irrespective of how we are conducting our lives, and sometimes not.”
  • “You are limited, my friend, in what you can and cannot control, as are we all.” – Dr. Patel
  • “Life is a river,” she repeated. “Only in the most literal sense are we born on the day we leave our mother’s womb. In the larger, truer sense, we are born of  the past – connected to its fluidity, both genetically and experientially.”
  • “Yes, grieving was a painful process. Yes, one negotiated one’s losses through a series of steps. But one lived in the meantime. One accommodated the reality of death while living life.” – Dr. Patel

I really enjoyed a few of these other little things:

  • when Ray gave their Ma the silent treatment and refused to give any money and she insisted that Dominick and Thomas be allowed to go to collage and he wanted them to go out and be a man, get a job, bring home money. That even though she was terrified, she actually went and got a job just so she could pay for her kids’ education was such an incredibly empowering moment.
  • I was assisted by a kindly one-eyed libraian who gave me my beloved coverless dictionary, which the library was about to destroy. To destroy a book’s insides because of outside defect? sacrilege! – Dominico
  • you could live through anything for fifteen minutes
  • I am not a smart man, particularly, but one day, at long last, I stumbled from the dark of the woods of my own, and my family’s, and my country’s past, holding in my hands these truths: that love grow from the rich loam of forgiveness; that mongrels make good dogs; that the evidence of god exists in the roundness of things. This much, at least, I’ve figured out. I know this much is true.

The one part I could not deal with was the fact that Dominick basically rapes his wp-1459221827166.jpggirlfriend and she ends up forgiving him and then later marrying him anyway? WTF? She said no. I don’t care if she’s your girlfriend and you feel entitled to it. She said no and she was fighting you off, that says something. His trying to justify it and why it wasn’t rape was just infuriating to me. It made me really hate him as a character.

Overall, this novel was so wonderfully written. There were a few unexpected twists and turns in there with some of the other characters, I did not see them coming at all. And I love how the story kind of came full circle in the end.
I’m looking forward to borrowing the rest of his books from the bff and reading Wally Lamb’s other works.

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