Saturday, November 21, 2009

I Know this Much is True – Wally Lamb ------ 1.5 STARS

So, it's been over 2 months since my last blog. During that time I have been reading the behemoth that is I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb and right now I am angry, very angry. As you can tell from my rating of 1.5 stars, I was not a very big fan of this book. In fact, it may have been one of my least favorite books I have ever read by choice.

The book checks in at just a shade under 900 pages, and it was a major effort to even finish it. I have been thinking about how I could express my displeasure of this book most clearly and easily, but I had so many reasons to hate it. I know there are millions of people out there who absolutely love this book (note the cover: "#1 New York Times Bestseller" and "Oprah Book Club" selection), but I just don't get it. Perhaps if anyone who is reading this blog is one of those people you can explain to me the value of the book... maybe I just don't understand the story, the lessons, the beautiful language (sarcasm... could the author use the f-word more times?).

I think my biggest issue with the book is how incredibly sad the story is for, no joke, 890 of the 900 pages. The morose story line literally starts on page 1 and continues for the next 47 chapters. By the time I finished chapter 48, I was incredibly depressed by the story and totally unsurprised by the very expected 'lets tie up all loose ends and leave the reader feeling happy' last chapter. I still don't understand what people get out of reading really sad books or watching really sad movies. Maybe if it's unbelievably well written and performed while being realistic I get it (i.e. Schindler's List), but this story wasn't real. In fact, I don't think it's possible to have a life this awful.

The story revolves around the brother of a twin who has schizophrenia and basically tells his story over a few months. Obviously, that couldn't take up all 900 pages so he interweaves the present story with chapters about his youth and, later in the book, a biography of his newly immigrated grandfather. When I first read the description of the book I was very excited. It sounded like it might be similar to one of my favorite books, Steinbeck's East of Eden (review here). Both stories about generations of families with the underlying question of how much did people's relatives pass on to them; both good and bad. The MAJOR difference is that Steinbeck is an incredible author who wrote a remarkable book and Lamb is... is... is.... well, I don't know what but his book was just so awful.

Besides the story being so morose, I thought final chapter was so poor and cliched. Of course, the main characters learns certain lessons: people must forgive and always keep trying, love conquers all, all people make mistakes, etc. A small part of the book was also about the teaching profession and he offended me on a personal level regarding that subject, which didn't help either.

Overall, I am incredibly excited to have finally finished the story. I wouldn't recommend that you read this book for any other reason than to maybe prove that this blogger has no idea what I'm talking about (and if you have that view, that this book was good, I would love to hear why). I would strongly remind you that if you do decide to take this book on, I was the one who told you it was awful.

Postscript -- So I just read over this blog entry, and I think it's one of my poorest efforts yet. Not well organized, sort of poorly written, and my points are not well supported. My only excitement comes from the fact that my most meager blog to date was for the worst book I've read... I guess it was my own perverse appreciation to the abhorrent Wally Lamb.