The Book: I’m home from New Jersey, back to serious work, and just finished reading this fantastic book. It had been gathering dust on my bookshelf for about a decade, ever since it was an Oprah pick way back when. At 900 pages, it simply wasn’t calling my name. I’m not sure what made me pick it up a couple of weeks ago, but I’m so glad I did. What a rewarding experience! Of course it won’t be for everyone. John, who read it years ago, called it a “slog, but worth it in the end.” A writer friend didn’t like it at all. I, however, was engrossed from start to finish. It’s the story of identical adult male twins. One of them, Thomas, is psychotic , while the other–the story’s narrator, Dominick–is not. Dominick carves out his own identity through the course of the book, which slips seamlessly between present and past. Intriguing to me as the granddaughter of Sicilian immigrants was the autobiography of the twins’ grandfather, an abusive misogynist blow-hard who came to America around the time my grandparents did (I hasten to add, immigration from Sicily was the only thing my gentle grandfather had in common with this man!) But one needn’t have Italian blood to be drawn in by the story. It reminded me of another of my favorite books, Pat Conroy’s Prince of Tides in both subject matter (twins, mental illness, dysfunctional family) and the narrator’s first person, angry male voice. Set in Connecticut, though, it lacks the low country’s atmosphere that colored Conroy’s story, but that’s made up for in the richness of character. Four and a half lighthouses. The Writing Lesson: If you’re a new novel-writer looking to write a complex story, I Know This Much is True would be a great book to study. My suggestion would be to outline it, as I did with some of my favorite novels when I was teaching myself how to write. There are many different threads Lamb follows in the book, each of which could form a heading in your outline. Below that heading, explore the ways Lamb lets the reader know what is going on. Then examine the way he handles secrets (beautifully!) and revelations. Finally, study the characters, both major and minor, to see how he lets the reader come to know them. It’s not a perfect book. It should have been at least a hundred pages shorter. There is repitition, some of it almost word for word, as if Lamb didn’t trust the reader to remember what he’d already said. But I did not for a minute wish it to go faster. If you’ve read it, I’d love to know what you think.