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This Boy's Life: A Memoir by Tobias…

This Boy's Life: A Memoir (original 1989; edition 2000)

by Tobias Wolff

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2,045303,264 (3.88)73
Title:This Boy's Life: A Memoir
Authors:Tobias Wolff
Info:Grove Press (2000), Edition: 1st Grove Press Ed, Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library

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This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff (1989)



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Memoir of the author growing up in the 1950's in a dysfunctional and sometimes abusive family/step family. The setting is rural Washington state and Wolff does a good job of using the climate and terrain of the area as symbols of the pains of growing up. Perhaps if I were 1) male 2) a little older so that I could relate to the time frame 3) more knowledgeable about the Pacific Northwest or 4) interested in Boy Scouts, hunting, all male prep schools, I would have enjoyed the book a little more. There were escapades of Toby and his friends that were interesting, but I did not find universal meaning in his story. I would probably give it a 2.5 if that were allowed. ( )
  TheresaCIncinnati | Aug 17, 2015 |
Several friends recommended this book to me. It took forever for me to get to it. And I read it after I read his brother's biography of their father, The Duke of Deceit, a pathological liar as both sons turn out to be. The writing in both books is excellent, but unfortunately, I didn't like any of the characters in either book. If you have never contemplated what "white privilege" means, you can begin here and add a dose of "class privilege." The poor choices that Toby makes repeatedly get overlooked and bailed out if they ever create adverse consequences. He gets dozens of "second chances" that no person of color or one without at least the modicum of "upbringing" that permits artful dodging would get. Prevarication, bamboozling, and posturing abound. I agree with the reviewer below, who described most of the book as reflecting Toby's younger life as a picture of "increasing entropy." ( )
  johnjmeyer | Jan 13, 2014 |
A high school friend once mentioned that his was her favorite book and since then this book has stuck in my head as something I should read. I’m glad I finally got around to it. That said, this story definitely challenged me. As a hardcore rule-follower it weirded me out that this kid was such a pathological liar. (I know it isn’t cool to say that you like following rules, I’m not a conservative asshole, I swear, it’s just that even breaking tiny rules makes me break out in hives. I have theories about why, but I won’t bore you with them here.) I still really enjoyed the story, but at moments I couldn’t fully understand how or why this guy did the stuff he did. Writing his uncle a bunch of lies behind his mother’s back to try to get himself sent to Paris? Fabricating all his transcripts and letters of recommendation to get into a prep school? Yikes. Just thinking about doing that stuff makes me break into a sweat. ( )
1 vote eenee | Apr 2, 2013 |
Toby Wolff was a troubled young man from an early age when his parents divorced. His father took his older brother and his mother took Toby, splitting the family up and only corresponding infrequently by letters between the two young boys. His mother moved them around frequently and eventually settled down with an abusive man, Dwight, whom she married quickly. Toby reinvents himself and insists that everyone call him "Jack". "Jack" started getting into trouble in school and around the house partly from having to live in such a hostile environment. He tries to run away, and eventually finds himself accepted into an elite school, where he meets his mentor, Mr. Howard. After a fight with his stepfather, his mother arranges for "Jack" to move in with his friend where he causes trouble, yet again. He then moves in with his brother and father, but flunks out of school and ends up joining the army and serving in the Vietnam war.

This was a very emotionally charged novel with a character that just seemed to take the wrong paths throughout his whole life. I really enjoyed reading about Toby, and how he created different identities and imagined different worlds to help himself cope with his troubled life. I think this is a good read for a young adult, especially a young boy. ( )
  laurenryates | Apr 29, 2012 |
A rough childhood, told from the perspective of the adult, showing his faults as well as his injuries. Beautifully written.
  mulliner | Apr 1, 2012 |
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"The first duty in life is to assume a pose. What the second is, no one has yet discovered." -Oscar Wilde
"He who fears corruption fears life." -- Saul Alinsky
My stepfather, Dwight, always said that what I didn't know could fill a book. Well, here it is.
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Our car boiled over again just after my mother and I crossed the Continental Divide.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0802136680, Paperback)

Fiction writer Tobias Wolff electrified critics with his scarifying 1989 memoir, which many deemed as notable for its artful structure and finely wrought prose as for the events it describes. The story is pretty grim: Teenaged Wolff moves with his divorced mother from Florida to Utah to Washington State to escape her violent boyfriend. When she remarries, Wolff finds himself in a bitter battle of wills with his abusive stepfather, a contest in which the two prove to be more evenly matched than might have been supposed. Deception, disguise, and illusion are the weapons the young man learns to employ as he grows up--not bad training for a writer-to-be. Somber though this tale of family strife is, it is also darkly funny and so artistically satisfying that most readers come away exhilarated rather than depressed.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:33 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

This unforgettable, bestselling memoir by a gifted writer introduces the young Toby Wolff, by turns tough and vulnerable, crafty and bumbling, and ultimately winning. A "New York Times" Notable Book of the Year.

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