“America’s been living on borrowed time all these years, Dominick,” he told me. “Playing the world’s whore, wallowing in our greed. Now we’re going to pay the price.”
—Wally Lamb, I Know This Much is True.
On the afternoon of October 12, 1990, Thomas Birdsey, a paranoid schizophrenic, entered the Three Rivers, Connecticut, public library, retreated to one of the rear study carrels, and committed a shocking act of self-mutilation. He prayed to God it was an acceptable sacrifice.
Thus begins I Know This Much is True, which follows the parallel lives of Thomas and his identical twin brother, Dominick as the two approach middle age.
Narrator Dominick Birdsey relates what led up to his brother’s mental illness. Illegitimate, they never knew their biological father, and their stepfather verbally and physically abused Thomas. Dominick’s life is no picnic, either. Once a high school teacher, he is now a divorced housepainter.
I first listened to the abridged audiobook (not knowing it was abridged) and then circled back and read the whole book. I Know This Much is True is a hefty read (900 pages) and fairly depressing, but it is a moving, well-written character study. The book was made into a limited series in 2020 earning Mark Ruffalo an Emmy Award, Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, and nine other awards and nominations. 4 stars.
** Be aware that the book contains disturbing content.