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
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 1998, 901 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 1999, 901 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt




When Ma came back down the stairs on that day of failed kitchen renovation, she was carrying a gray metal strongbox. I put down the picture album, stood, and walked toward her. "Here, honey," she said. "This is for you. Phew, kind of heavy."

"Ma, I told you I'd get it." I took it from her. "What's in it, anyways?"

"Open it and see," she said.

She had masking-taped the key to the side of the box; I kidded her about it--told her it was a good thing she didn't work for Fort Knox. She watched my fingers peel the key free, put it in the lock, and turn. In anticipation of my opening the strongbox, she didn't even seem to hear my teasing.

Inside the box was a large manila envelope curled around a small coverless dictionary and held in place with an elastic band that broke as soon as I touched it. The envelope held a thick sheaf of paper--a manuscript of some kind. The first ten or fifteen pages were typewritten--originals and carbon copies. The rest had been written in longhand--a scrawling, ornate script in blue fountain-pen ink. "It's Italian, right?" I asked. "What is it?"

"It's my father's life story," she said. "He dictated it the summer he died."

As I fanned through the thing, its mildewy aroma went up my nose. "Dictated it to who?" I asked her. "You?"

"Oh, gosh, no," she said. Did I remember the Mastronunzios from church? Tootsie and Ida Mastronunzio? My mother was always doing that: assuming that my mental database of all the Italians in Three Rivers was as extensive as hers was.

"Uh-uh," I said.

Sure I did, she insisted. They drove that big white car to Mass? Ida worked at the dry cleaner's? Walked with a little bit of a limp? Well, anyway, Tootsie had a cousin who came over from Italy right after the war. Angelo Nardi, his name was. He'd been a courtroom stenographer in Palermo. "He was a handsome fella, too--very dashing. He was looking for work."

Her father had been saying for years how, someday, he was going to sit down and tell the story of his life for the benefit of siciliani. He thought boys and young men back in the Old Country would want to read about how one of their own had come to America and made good. Gotten ahead in life. Papa thought it might inspire them to do likewise. So when he met Tootsie's cousin one day over at the Italian Club, he came up with a big idea. He would tell Angelo his story--have Angelo write it all down as he spoke and then type it up on the typewriter.

The project had begun as something of an extravaganza, according to my mother. "Careful with his money" his whole life, Papa now spared no expense at first on his inspirational autobiography. He cleared some of the furniture out of the parlor and rented a typewriter for Angelo. "Things were hunky-dory for the first couple of days," Ma said. "But after that, there were problems."

Papa decided he could not tell his story as freely with Angelo in the room--that he would be able to remember things better if he was by himself. "So the next thing you know, he was on the telephone with a bunch of office equipment companies--making all these long-distance calls, which I could hardly believe he was doing, Dominick, because he'd never even call his cousins down in Brooklyn to wish them a Merry Christmas or a Happy Easter. They always had to call us every year because Papa didn't want to waste his money. But for that project of his, he called all over creation. He ended up renting this Dictaphone machine from some place all the way down in Bridgeport." Ma shook her head, wonder-struck still. "Jeepers, you should have seen that contraption when it got here! I almost fell over the day they lugged that thing into the house."

Two machines sat on rolling carts, she said--one for the person dictating, the other for the stenographer who would turn the recorded sounds first into squiggles and then into typewritten words. They set it up in the front parlor and moved Angelo's typewriter into the spare room. "Poor Angelo," Ma said. "I don't think he knew what he was getting himself into."

© June 1998 , Wally Lamb. Used by permission.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • 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 $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    All Tomorrow's Parties
    by Rob Spillman
    In this absorbing memoir, co-founder of Tin House magazine, Rob Spillman, recalls his artistic ...
  • Book Jacket: Strangers in Their Own Land
    Strangers in Their Own Land
    by Arlie Russell Hochschild
    Arlie Russell Hochschild's dive into the heart of Tea Party America is as good a glimpse of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dry
    The Dry
    by Jane Harper
    After receiving a letter from his childhood friend's father, Aaron Falk, a Melbourne police officer ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Sellout
by Paul Beatty

The first book by an American author to win the prestigious Man Booker Prize.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    I See You
    by Clare Mackintosh

    A dark and compelling thriller about an everyday woman trapped in the confines of her everyday world.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Fifth Petal
    by Brunonia Barry

    Beloved author Brunonia Barry returns to the world of The Lace Reader with this spellbinding new thriller.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Idealism increases in direct proportion to ones distance from the problem.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

K Your F C

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.