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

One Saturday morning when my brother and I were ten, our family television set spontaneously combusted.

Thomas and I had spent most of that morning lolling around in our pajamas, watching cartoons and ignoring our mother's orders to go upstairs, take our baths, and put on our dungarees. We were supposed to help her outside with the window washing. Whenever Ray gave an order, my brother and I snapped to attention, but our stepfather was duck hunting that weekend with his friend Eddie Banas. Obeying Ma was optional.

She was outside looking in when it happened--standing in the geranium bed on a stool so she could reach the parlor windows. Her hair was in pincurls. Her coat pockets were stuffed with paper towels. As she Windexed and wiped the glass, her circular strokes gave the illusion that she was waving in at us. "We better get out there and help," Thomas said. "What if she tells Ray?"

"She won't tell," I said. "She never tells."

It was true. However angry we could make our mother, she would never have fed us to the five-foot-six-inch sleeping giant who snoozed upstairs weekdays in the spare room, rose to his alarm clock at three-thirty each afternoon, and built submarines at night. Electric Boat, third shift. At our house, you tiptoed and whispered during the day and became free each evening at nine-thirty when Eddie Banas, Ray's fellow third-shifter, pulled into the driveway and honked. I would wait for the sound of that horn. Hunger for it. With it came a loosening of limbs, a relaxation in the chest and hands, the ability to breathe deeply again. Some nights, my brother and I celebrated the slamming of Eddie's truck door by jumping in the dark on our mattresses. Freedom from Ray turned our beds into trampolines.

"Hey, look," Thomas said, staring with puzzlement at the television.

"What?"

Then I saw it, too: a thin curl of smoke rising from the back of the set. The Howdy Doody Show was on, I remember. Clarabel the Clown was chasing someone with his seltzer bottle. The picture and sound went dead. Flames whooshed up the parlor wall.

I thought the Russians had done it--that Khrushchev had dropped the bomb at last. If the unthinkable ever happened, Ray had lectured us at the dinner table, the submarine base and Electric Boat were guaranteed targets. We'd feel the jolt nine miles up the road in Three Rivers. Fires would ignite everywhere. Then the worst of it: the meltdown. People's hands and legs and faces would melt like cheese.

"Duck and cover!" I yelled to my brother.

Thomas and I fell to the floor in the protective position the civil defense lady had made us practice at school. There was an explosion over by the television, a confusion of thick black smoke. The room rained glass.

The noise and smoke brought Ma, screaming, inside. Her shoes crunched glass as she ran toward us. She picked up Thomas in her arms and told me to climb onto her back.

"We can't go outside!" I shouted. "Fallout!"

"It's not the bomb!" she shouted back. "It's the TV!"

Outside, Ma ordered Thomas and me to run across the street and tell the Anthonys to call the fire department. While Mr. Anthony made the call, Mrs. Anthony brushed glass bits off the tops of our crewcuts with her whisk broom. We spat soot-flecked phlegm. By the time we returned to the front sidewalk, Ma was missing.

"Where's your mother?" Mr. Anthony shouted. "She didn't go back in there, did she? Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!"

Thomas began to cry. Then Mrs. Anthony and I were crying, too. "Hurry up!" my brother shrieked to the distant sound of the fire siren. Through the parlor windows, I could see the flames shrivel our lace curtains.

A minute or so later, Ma emerged from the burning house, sobbing, clutching something against her chest. One of her pockets was ablaze from the paper towels; her coat was smoking.

© 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: Perfect Little World
    Perfect Little World
    by Kevin Wilson
    It might be the beginning of a tragic story: Izzy Poole falls in love with her mentally unstable ...
  • Book Jacket: Pachinko
    Pachinko
    by Min Jin Lee
    Pachinko has one of the best opening lines I've encountered in some time: "History has failed us, ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Summer Before the War
    by Helen Simonson
    Set on the cusp of World War I, The Summer Before the War exudes strength and spirit as a small town...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
June
by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

A novel of suspense and passion about a terrible mistake that changed a family forever.

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

    A Piece of the World
    by Christina Baker Kline

    A stunning novel of friendship, passion, and art from the #1 bestselling author of Orphan Train.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Men are more moral than they think...

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.