Some books have many different names. This is one of them.
I Know This Much Is True is the perfect name for Wally Lamb’s novel. It’s true that Dominick, our protagonist, doesn’t seem to know much, even about his own life. He doesn’t understand why his twin is mentally ill and he isn’t. He doesn’t know who his father is. He doesn’t get so much about the world he lives in, and what he writes in these pages is all he knows for sure.
Yet, I Know This Much Is True could go by many different names.
It could easily become “Fathers and Sons,” one of the major themes in this work. What is a father, and how does a father’s life influence his offspring? Dominick has difficulty coming to terms with what “fatherhood” means to him, and indeed, considers himself fatherless because he never knew who his father was. Questions of fatherhood haunt the text.
It could also be called “Mirror Image” because that’s what Dominick and Thomas are. As twins, they share a life, yet live lives that are so different from each other. The idea of singularity, and two becoming one is also a theme that runs abundant in the text. As well, the twins are said to be mirror images to their grandfather, a man they never met. Thus, questions of identity and self, and how two things alike can be so different yet the same, are crucial to the story.
Or maybe “Generational” due to the importance of family. Above all else, this is a family epic. Although it does not span generations, it’s about the Birdsey family, and how history repeats itself, and how your past can shape everything about you.
To put it short, the novel follows Dominick who is struggling to put the pieces of his life together while everything falls apart. I went into the book knowing nothing, and maybe it’s best you do the same, because describing what happens is only going to bore you. It doesn’t sound like anything special, but it is. It’s a story of a man, being his brother’s keeper. It’s a story of a man, trying to find his father. It’s a story of a man, falling apart so he can put himself back together.
It’s a story about life, plain and simple as that.
But it’s astoundingly beautiful.
I tore through pages, reading them as fast as my eyes allowed, yet I read very few a day because I had to rest, had to let the story sit with me, so I could contemplate its meanings. It’s a sad story, without a doubt, but I think there’s a glimmer of hope in it too.
It will hurt, but it will be worth reading. Trust me.