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novel are the chapters that seem to occur within King's mind, when he gives in to his weariness and doubts and when the clever dopplegänger motif of the book finds resonance in King's internal conflict between individual growth and public service. The passages in which King is described as longing for time to read and meditate and spend time with his children are moving, intimate glimpses in a narrative that is sometimes too remote and in peril of sounding like a history textbook. Despite the pedantic tone, one cannot help but enjoy Johnson's premise, the giddy ingenuity of spUtting King into a "good" and a "bad" brother to illustrate the divisions within the civil rights movement and within King himself. The creative license Johnson takes with historical events that many authors shy away from, and the sympathetic scrutiny he applies to King's private dreams, make this a novel well worth reading. (TH) I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb Reganbooks, 1998, 901 pp., $27.50 Lamb's weU-received first novel, She's Come Undone, about the selfloathingbut ultimately heroic Dolores Price, went platinum when Oprah Winfrey picked it for her book club. Lamb's second book, I Know This Much is True, has also soared to the top ofthe bestseUer Ust, thanks in part to Oprah's choosing it as another of her book club selections. Don't be put off by the length. Nine hundred pages go fast in this book about mental illness, family obligations and emotional healing. The book's self-deprecating narrator, Dominick Birdsey, launches us into the story by describing a violent act of self-mutilation in a public library by his schizophrenic identical twin, Thomas. The novel's present action concerns Dominick's attempts to get Thomas out of Hatch, the highsecurity mental institution to which he is hauled off after his bloody act, and returned to the more humane, less restrictive Settle, where Thomas has been comfortably hospitalized off and on over the years. Interwoven with the present narrative are flashbacks that sketch the twins' 1950s childhood and '60s adolescence . From the start, Thomas, who descended into paranoid schizophrenia in his twenties, is the more sensitive, "weaker" brother, often derided by others and abused by the boys' adoptive father, Ray. Lamb convicingly depicts Dominick's past as a long struggle to reconcile his own instinct to survive—which pits him against Thomas, his albatross— with his deeply felt obligation to protect his "weaker half." The results , of course, are massive guilt and buried anger at his crazy twin, and as the story proceeds, the emphasis shifts from Dominick's attempts to get Thomas released to his initially reluctant quest for self-knowledge and self-healing. It's a welcome shift, since while Thomas's paranoid delusions that he is the mouthpiece of God are an alluring hook, they quickly become less interesting than Dominick's tangled real life. Given the complexity of Dominick 'sproblems—hisbrother'sinsanity, his mother's death from cancer, his divorce (due to the strain of losing an The Missouri Review · 207 infant daughter to SIDS), his confused flight, several years earher, from a teaching career and his current troubled relationship with a sexually manipulative kleptomaniac—the length of the novel seems fully justified . What's noteworthy is how weU Lamb orchestrates it all. This is a story full of characters, all of whom seem to have Uves as compUcated as Dominick's, but' because they're aU seen from the perspective of the protagonist 's search for self-knowledge and acceptance, the whole is remarkably integrated—even the strange and gruesome journal of Dominick's Italian grandfather, which Lamb interpolates in its entirety. In fact, the journal is one of the highlights of the novel and features by far the best villain in the book. By contrast, Lamb's other characters, even the Ul-doers, are a little too soft, a Uttle too nice. Even the worst of them is easily and neatly redeemed in the end. It seems like hair-spUtting to criticize this good, big, absorbing book, but a touch less earnestness wouldn't have hurt. (ES) The Wealth...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 207-208
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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