I Know This Much is True

by Wally Lamb

A friend familiar with my documentary topic suggested I read I Know this Much Is True, the best-selling Oprah Book Club selection written by Wally Lamb. The hefty novel (900+ pages) tells the story of Birdsey twins. Thomas Birdsey has paranoid schizophrenia. Dominick Birdsey is the “normal” twin. Early in the novel, a delusional Thomas believes he can prevent the Gulf War by committing an act of self-mutilation. I read the following passage on page 60:

“And the thing is he meant well. He wanted to stop a war from happening. How can someone cause so much pain when all he wants to do is help out the world?”

I quickly realized that passage could have been inspired by the story I was telling in the documentary. Matt McBride killed his parents because he believed he could prevent World War III. Matt meant well but it turned out horribly. I contacted Regan Books which put me in touch with Wally Lamb. Lamb allowed me use four short passages from his novel, all of which strike a chord of truth about the nature of schizophrenia. These are the other passages from the novel included in my documentary.

There was no solution to who he was. No getting back who he had been.

You try being the brother of a paranoid schizophrenic. See if it doesn’t royally fuck up your life. Your relationships.

The bottom line is: this is a very threatening environment for a paranoid schizophrenic. People are always watching you.

If you haven’t read this novel, I highly recommend it. Although it’s an intense book dealing with mental illness, murder, love, and betrayal, it’s a compelling story that will hold your interest.