Excerpt from I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

I Know This Much Is True

by Wally Lamb

I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb X
I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 1998, 901 pages

    Apr 1999, 901 pages


  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

I leafed again through the musty manuscript--those pages and pages of foreign words. "You ever read it?" I asked her.

She shook her head. We lost eye contact.

"Why not?"

"Oh, I don't know, Dominick. I peeked at it a couple of times, I guess. But I just never felt right about it. My Italian's too rusty. You forget a lot of it if you don't use it."

We sat there, side by side on the couch, neither of us speaking. In less than a year, I thought, she'll be dead.

"It's funny, though," she said. "It was kind of out of character for Papa to do something like that. Write things down. He'd always been so private about everything. Sometimes I'd ask him about the Old Country--about his mother and father or the village where he'd grown up--and he'd say, oh, he didn't even remember that stuff anymore. Or he'd tell me Sicilians kept their eyes open and their mouths shut. . . . But then, that summer: he hired Angelo, rented that contraption. . . . Some mornings I'd hear him crying up there. Up in the backyard. Or speaking out loud--kind of arguing with himself about something. Papa had had a lot of tragedy in his life, see? Both his brothers who he came over here with had died young. And his wife. All he had was me, really. It was just the two of us."

The first page of the manuscript was hand-lettered in blue fountain-pen ink, lots of flourishes and curlicues. "I can read his name," I said. "What does the rest say?"

"Let's see. It says, 'The History of Domenico Onofrio Tempesta, a Great Man from . . ." Umile? Umile? Humble! . . . 'The History of Domenico Onofrio Tempesta, a Great Man from Humble Beginnings.' "

I had to smile. "He had a pretty good idea of himself, didn't he?"

Her eyes brimmed with tears. "He was a wonderful man, Dominick."

"Yeah, right. As long as you ate your eggs. And your cigarettes."

Ma stroked the small, coverless dictionary. "I've been meaning to give you this stuff for a long time, honey," she said. "You take it with you when you go. It's for Thomas, too, if he ever wants to look at it, but I wanted to give it to you, especially, because you were the one who always used to ask about Papa."

"I was?"

She nodded. "When you were little. See this dictionary? This is the one he used right after he came over from the Old Country--the one he learned his English from."

I opened the tattered book. Its onionskin pages were stained with grease from his fingers. On one page, I covered his thumbprint with my thumb and considered for the first time that Papa might have been more than just old pictures--old, repeated stories.

I took my mother into the kitchen and showed her the pencil marks written onto the joist. "Yup, that's his writing!" she said. "I'll be a son of a gun. Look at that! It almost brings him right back again."

I reached out and rubbed her shoulder, the cloth of her bathrobe, the skin and bone. "You know what I think?" I said. "I think you should translate that story of his."

Ma shook her head. "Oh, honey, I can't. I told you, I've forgotten more Italian than I remember. I never learned it that good to begin with. It was confusing. Sometimes he'd speak the Italian he'd learned in school--up in the North--and sometimes he'd speak Sicilian. I used to get them mixed up. . . . And anyway, it's like I said. I just don't think he wanted me to read it. Whenever I'd go out into the yard to hang the clothes or bring him a cold drink, he'd get so mad at me. Shout at me, shoo me away. 'Stay out of my business!' he'd say. I'm telling you, he was a regular J. Edgar Hoover about that project of his."

"But, Ma, he's dead," I reminded her. "He's been dead for almost forty years."

She stopped, was quiet. She seemed lost in thought.

© June 1998 , Wally Lamb. Used by permission.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Become a Member

Join BookBrowse today to start discovering exceptional books!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Terraformers
    The Terraformers
    by Annalee Newitz
    Sask-E is a planet that Verdance, a major terraforming company, has big plans for. Their business is...
  • Book Jacket: The Light Pirate
    The Light Pirate
    by Lily Brooks-Dalton
    The lynchpin of The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton, a novel split into four parts, is the main ...
  • Book Jacket: The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On
    The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On
    by Franny Choi
    Calamity can cohabit with joy, and you and I have, on some plane, accepted that absurd reality. We ...
  • Book Jacket: Bloodbath Nation
    Bloodbath Nation
    by Paul Auster
    In recent years, Booker Prize­–nominated novelist Paul Auster has increasingly turned to ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Love of My Life
by Rosie Walsh
An up-all-night love story wrapped in a mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Ghosted.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    River Sing Me Home
    by Eleanor Shearer

    A remarkable debut about a mother's gripping journey across the Caribbean to find her stolen children in the aftermath of slavery.

  • Book Jacket

    by Wendell Steavenson

    A young woman struggles to break free of her upper-class upbringing amid the whirlwind years of the sexual revolution.

Book Club Giveaway!
Win French Braid

French Braid
by Anne Tyler

From the beloved Pulitzer Prize–winning author, a joyful journey deep into one Baltimore family's foibles.



Solve this clue:

It's A G T Me

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.