This Boy's Life

This Boy's Life

A Memoir

Book - 1990
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This unforgettable memoir, by one of our most gifted writers, introduces us to the young Toby Wolff, by turns tough and vulnerable, crafty and bumbling, and ultimately winning. Separated by divorce from his father and brother, Toby and his mother are constantly on the move, yet they develop an extraordinarily close, almost telepathic relationship. As Toby fights for identity and self-respect against the unrelenting hostility of a new stepfather, his experiences are at once poignant and comical, and Wolff does a masterful job of re-creating the frustrations and cruelties of adolescence. His various schemes - running away to Alaska, forging checks, and stealing cars - lead eventually to an act of outrageous self-invention that releases him into a new world of possibility.
Publisher: New York : Perennial Library, 1990, c1989.
Edition: 1st Perennial Library ed.
ISBN: 9780802136688
Branch Call Number: WOLFF WOL
Characteristics: 288 p. ; 21 cm.


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Mar 17, 2018

A memoir that I discovered following a trail from an article in Vanity Fair about Katherine Graham. The author, a journalist, loves memoirs and this is one of her favorite. It was amazing to read - so well written and in the moment without judgment - descriptive, depressing in some ways, a trapped life for some years. The boy, Tobias, lives with his mother. She escapes from a violent man who has been a bit of a father to Tobias. It is periodic violence , anger, possessiveness. There are good periods, of course, when he gives Tobias a wonderful rifle and teaches him to shoot. Then he and his mother run away. She is happy when they run. They go to Seattle and live in a boarding house. She sends him to live with the man she is dating - to see what he thinks of it all. The man is a bully but he tells his mother it is ok. He wants a family. He doesn't think of any other answer to her questions. The town is dank, cold, on the side of the mountain. There are two sisters in the family and Tobias and his mother. It is just poverty and being trapped. He says of the father: "Fearlessness in those without power is maddening to those who have it." He says of the TV shows he and his friends watch about WWII: "These shows instructed us further in the faith we were already beginning to hold: that victims are contemptible, no matter how much people pretend otherwise; that it is better to be inside than outside; to be arrogant than kind; to be with a crowd than to be alone."

Aug 27, 2016

A memoir that reads like a novel. With unerring diction, Wolff unfolds a tale that builds in interest and suspense and that never ceases to surprise. 'This Boy's Life' is a memoir of devastatingly Rousseau-like honesty told from a vantage point of hard-won wisdom. It may be true, as Wyatt Mason in the London Review of Books said, that duplicity is the theme both of this memoir and Wolff's work in general, but the spare, sparkling style brings some light to the moral darkness that subtends it.

May 04, 2016

Endearing and gritty vignettes of a bygone time. It reminds readers who grew up during this time of how much has changed politically, morally, culturally. A few chapters hint at a depth of pain that isn't fully led up to in the rest of the book leaving some gaps in the reader's understanding. Worth reading though.

Feb 04, 2014

Tobias Wolff's memoir of his sometimes adventurous, often difficult childhood is, by turns, gritty, tender and nostalgic. The tough time growing up memoir has become something of a cliche, but this is one of the best examples, reading like a novel with an authentic, observant American voice at its heart. Much of it takes place in Washington, so Northwest readers especially will be able to relate to it. Wolff also wrote a memoir about his time in Vietnam. Made into a film with Robert De Niro. Leonardo Dicaprio and Ellen DeBarkin.

BugLady1 Sep 05, 2013

Wonderful voice that keeps the reader wanting to know what happens next. Somewhat sad true story. I became so attached to the narrator that I found myself wanting to know more of his story when it came to an end.


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Aug 27, 2016

Frightening or Intense Scenes: Intense, yes, certainly, and occasionally frightening from a moral point of view; but never gratuitously so.

Aug 27, 2016

Sexual Content: Very slight, given the theme.

Aug 27, 2016

Violence: Fighting; abusive punishments; murderous thoughts.

Aug 27, 2016

Coarse Language: Occasional juvenile banter.

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May 06, 2017

carberry61 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

Aug 27, 2016

jensenmk thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

Nov 08, 2014

huy1993 thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over


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Aug 27, 2016

"The human heart is a dark forest" (p. 143).


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