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Wally Lamb won many accolades for his first book, SHE'S COME UNDONE, which was one of Oprah's Book Club's earliest selections. He teaches at the University of Connecticut. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and three sons.
Actor Ken Howard gives an excellent reading of Lamb's (She's Come Undone, Audio Reviews, LJ 5/15/97) gripping drama. Dominick and Thomas Birdsey are identical twin brothers born on New Year's Eve 1949-50. By the late 1960s, Thomas is a paranoid schizophrenic both loved and hated by Dominick. Lamb's novel presents the twins' story set against the twists and turns of late-20th-century America. Thomas's illness coupled with the Birdseys' upbringing with an abusive father and passive mother profoundly shape Dominick's life. However, Thomas's self-mutilation on the eve of the Persian Gulf War sets his brother on the path of coming to terms with his family, the loss of his daughter, and a reconciliation with his former wife. This is not an easy novel to hear, but it is engrossing from the start. Recommended for all collections.‘Stephen L. Hupp, Univ. of Pittsburgh at Johnstown Lib., PA
'A triumph of simple beauty' Time 'I Know This Much Is True never grapples with anything less than life's biggest questions! a modern-day Dostoyevsky' New York Times 'Every now and then a book comes along that sets new standards for writers and readers alike. Wally Lamb's latest novel is stunning -- and even that might be an understatement' Associated Press 'Lamb creates a nuanced picture of a flawed but decent man. And the questions that permeate the novel! contribute to a fully developed and triumphantly resolved exploration of one man's suffering and redemption' Publishers Weekly 'A modern Greek tragedy! [Lamb's] success is to present this with terrific readability, tenderness, optimism and, most surprisingly, wit! The hallmark of the book is fine writing and a commendable depth of characterisation' The Times 'Wally Lamb's achievement is to force you to feel Dominick's pain! the events in Dominick's everyday nightmare are presented with a sneaky simplicity which generates emotional tension' Daily Telegraph
This much is true for sure: Lamb's second novel (after the bestselling, Oprah-selected She's Come Undone) is a hefty read. Some may be daunted by its length, its seemingly obsessive inclusion of background details and its many digressions. The topics it unflinchingly exploresÄmental illness, dysfunctional families, domestic abuseÄare rendered with unsparing candor. But thanks to well-sustained dramatic tension, funky gallows humor and some shocking surprises, this sinuous story of one family's dark secrets and recurring patterns of behavior largely succeeds in its ambitious reach. The narrative explores the theme of sibling responsibility, depicting the moral and emotional conundrum of an identical twin whose love for his afflicted brother is mixed with resentment, bitterness and guilt. Narrator Dominick Birdsey, once a high-school history teacher and now, at 40, a housepainter in upstate Connecticut, relates the process that led to his twin Thomas's schizophrenic paranoia and the resulting chaos in both their lives. The book opens with a horrific scene in which Thomas slices off his right hand, declaring it a sacrifice demanded by God. Flashbacks illuminate the boys' difficult childhoods: illegitimate, they never knew their father; diffident, gentle Thomas was verbally and physically abused by their bullying stepfather, who also terrorized their ineffectual mother. Scenes from the pivotal summer of 1969, when Dominick betrayed Thomas and others in crucial ways, are juxtaposed with his current life: his frustrating relationship with his scatterbrained live-in, Joy; his enduring love for his ex-wife, Dessa; his memories of their baby's death and of his mother's sad and terrified existence. All of this unfolds against his urgent need to release Thomas from a mental institution and the psychiatric sessions that finally force Dominick to acknowledge his own self-destructive impulses. Lamb takes major risks in spreading his narrative over more than 900 pages. Long stretches are filled with the raunchy, foul-mouthed humor of teenaged Dominick and his friends. Yet the details of working-class life, particularly the prevalence of self-righteous male machismo and domestic brutality, ring absolutely true. Though the inclusion of a diary written by the twins' Sicilian immigrant grandfather may seem an unnecessary digression at first, its revelations add depth and texture to the narrative. Lastly, what seems a minor subplot turns out to hold the key to many secrets. In tracing Dominick's helplessness against the abuse of power on many levels, Lamb creates a nuanced picture of a flawed but decent man. And the questions that suspensefully permeate the novelÄthe identity of the twins' father; the mystery of the inscription on their grandfather's tomb; the likelihood of Dominick's reconciliation with his ex-wifeÄcontribute to a fully developed and triumphantly resolved exploration of one man's suffering and redemption. BOMC main selection; author tour; simultaneous audio. (June)