Sunday, February 15, 2009

I know this much is true by Wally Lamb

On the afternoon of October 12, 1990, my twin brother Thomas entered the Three Rivers, Connecticut Public Library, retreated to one of the rear study carrels, and prayed to God the sacrifice he was about to commit would be deemed acceptable.

Title: I Know This Much is True
Author: Wally Lamb
ISBN: 9780061097645
Publisher: HarperTorch/ReaganBooks/1998
Pages 890

When I received this novel as a gift from a friend of mine, I was daunted by the sheer size of it. I thought no way I was going to finish this book. I started it last night and finished it a while back. All 890 pages of it. I just couldn't put it down. I think it covers my whole week's reading!

Thomas Birdsey, a 40-years old, goes to a library, all the while praying and with quite deliberation cuts off his right hand from the wrist. His only explanation being: by his sacrifice he can stop the war. His twin Dominick has always taken care of his schizophrenic brother for the last twenty years.

From there starts a journey of their story backwards. Dominick is the sane identical twin. He is the narrator of the story. This book goes back and forth from present to past. With deep dark secrets, a dysfunctional family, who really is responsible for Thomas' state? Born illegitimate with an unknown father, only father they know is Ray Birdsey, who had adopted them when he married Connie, their mother. For them he always remains the step father, at least in Dominick's eye.

The deep search into Dominick's own psyche to understand his own inner being might give a clue about Thomas' state of being. That's what he believes. No matter what, Dominick has to take care of Thomas. We see him hating his identical twin, and also the deep abiding love for his other half. The question is who is the stronger twin? Dominick also gets to read his family history but he still can't know who is his real father. His mother died without letting it out. Despite his love and care for her, he hates her for it.

This novel questions our own beliefs, our life's journey, and soul searching. Reading it makes us go through a whole gamut of emotions. Despite its length, it takes us in, with beautiful prose. With wit and dark humour, reading is not as difficult as I had initially presumed. With complexities of relationships, it is not a book for those who want everything neat and hunky dory.