Study Guide

I Know This Much is True Tough-o-Meter

By Wally Lamb


(5) Tree Line

We know this much is true: I Know This Much is True is a fairly easy read. However, it's an intimidating hike. The book clocks in at around nine hundred pages and encompasses three different timelines: a present-day (well, 1990s) Dominick Birdsey trying, and failing, to take care of his schizophrenic brother; the story of Dominick and Thomas, that brother we mentioned, growing up in the 1960s; and the story of Dominick's grandfather, Domenico, a memoir taking place in the early 1900s.

Despite doing almost as much time-traveling as Doctor Who, everything is clearly labeled and easy to understand, like shopping at American Apparel but with even more creepy sexual innuendos. Characters sleep with relatives, characters sleep with monkeys, characters sleep with old women that look like monkeys—seriously, there's a lot of strange sexuality on display.

The material that's the hardest to digest is often the easiest to read, though, because Domenico writes in a broken English that almost makes the horrible things going on in his life seem funny. And like any good heroic quest story, everything turns out fine in the end.