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

by Tobias Wolff

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1,939293,524 (3.86)71
Member:william_lee
Title:This Boy's Life: A Memoir
Authors:Tobias Wolff
Info:Grove Press (2000), Edition: 1st Grove Press Ed, Paperback, 304 pages
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This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff (1989)

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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 |
As a boy Tobias Wolff and his mother moved west to seek their fortune and to escape an abusive man. They landed first in Utah, later in Seattle. In just a matter of months Wolff's mother has met and married another abusive man and moved Tobias deep into the Cascade Mountains where Dwight, his new stepfather, lives in a company town. In this remote environment Dwight is free to abuse Jack, as Wolff is known in his youth. And abuse is a constant in Wolff's young life. His stepfather has free reign, and Wolff's mother does little to reign in her husband's tirades.

The wild and dangerous setting of the mountains serves as a fitting background for Wolff's youth. His life in many ways mimics the scenery. It is lawless, it is amazing, and it has little connection to the outside world. Wolff's life is a test of wills, an assertion of wit and strength. His writing is lyrical and engaging. I was taken with his story from beginning to end. ( )
  lahochstetler | Sep 6, 2011 |
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Epigraph
"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
Dedication
My stepfather, Dwight, always said that what I didn't know could fill a book. Well, here it is.
First words
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:57 -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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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