I know this much is true" by Wally Lamb.

Essay by silverspokenHigh School, 12th gradeA+, April 2003

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I Know This Much Is True

This novel begins with a paranoid schizophrenic man's sacrificial amputation on behalf of God and peace. This well-crafted, character-driven novel maintains that edgy discomfort throughout. This isn't escapist fiction; it's better, drawing you into a convoluted web of twins, fatherhood, love and mental instability, it demanding emotional involvement.

The story revolves around Dominick Birdsey, the sane twin responsible for his schizophrenic mirror image, Tomas. The author, Wally Lamb, creates Dominick with such complexity and so much baggage that he's not entirely easy to like. I could sympathize with his challenges, having dealt with mentally ill siblings myself, but the character's incredible resentment over his deathbed promise to his mother and her favoritism toward his weaker brother, drives emotional out-bursts and seemingly irrational behaviors. His introspective self-discovery seems to dismantle all that he is and bare a soul who ultimately will discover not only his true roots, but his destiny and calling in life.

The novel focuses on the 40-year-old twins, born in the waning moments of 1949, and the opening moments of 1950. Lamb leads you through the widely vacillating saga of Dominick's quest to have his brother released from a full security mental hospital, and entrusting into his care. Their current relationship with their reluctant emotional-bystander of a stepfather, Ray, who finds himself "up-to-bat" before he has ever learned the "game," epitomizes the ultimate triumph of the family. We marvel as Ray, the by-the-belt" jackass of a step dad evolves to become a "father" for the first time.

The plot revealed through flashbacks, therapy sessions and their grandfather's egocentric autobiography, incorporates five generations into a revealing family portrait, layered with abuse and varying degrees of mental instability. The similarities between Dominick's life and that of his grandfather Domenico are startling and at...