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This Boy's Life: A Memoir Paperback – March, 2000
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Wolff's story of his grim life from age ten through high school is a breath-taking recreation, filled with the sorts of longings that motivate sensitive young boys everywhere, but also filled with an a self-awareness that is rare in such autobiographies. Jack (Toby) is a rebel--a sometime kleptomaniac, thief, cheater, liar, and schoolboy miscreant who loves his mother, hates his stepfather (and generally tries to avoid him), and hangs out with similarly alienated, hell-raising schoolmates, who often "escape" through alcohol.
When he is a sophomore in high school, he talks with his older brother for the first time in six years. His brother, now a student at Princeton, remained with his father when his parents split, and he encourages Jack to apply as a scholarship student to an eastern boarding school, thereby escaping his step-father and starting yet another new life. Jack's only academic interest to date has been in writing, thanks to the inspiration of his English teacher, but he is intrigued with the idea of escape. The story of how Wolff lies and cheats his way into a prep school is a classic.Read more ›
The book starts out with ten year Wolff and his mother stuck on the side of the road because their car has overheated again and while waiting for the engine to cool off, they witness a truck going over a cliff because it has lost its brake. The beginning is allegorical of their story as they struggled thru abusive men, poverty and self doubt. But once in a while Toby and his mother would have some happier times although brief and few. I admire how Wolff never second guess what happened between his mother and the men whom she had relationships with, including his own father. He just gave enough details that you have to come up with your own conclusion. It isn't a really a happy book and at times you feel an overwhelming pity for Toby and his mom and wished things would be better in the next chapter but it never really did. Their lives was a constatnt struggle. The only thing that seem to hold them is each other and the perpetual belief that something better is around the corner. It's funny how we tend to have this sweet, nostalgic picture of the 50's of a sturdy, working dad, mom in the kitchen getting the meal ready and strong, gorgeous, all american kids that say "awh shucks" and "gee Wally" a lot. I think "This Boy's Life" was how things really were for a lot of single,poor women and their earnest little boys. I love reading this book, I started it in the morning and finished it by the next afternoon, this is always a hallmark of a good book and a good author. I hope you read it and enjoy it as well.
Wolff is currently a professor at Stanford (unless things have changed without my knowledge), earned his B.A. at Oxford and received his M.S. at Stanford as well. This is incredible considering the childhood he laid out in This Boy's Life. Wolff was not a good little boy, to say the least. He was guilty of lying, stealing, cursing, fighting, forgery, and being rather unattached to anything or anyone but his mother. He spent several years with an abusive stepfather who, while never out-and-out beating him, put him through psychological trauma just as severe. It's amazing this man has become one of America's greatest writers, but I suppose all great talent was forged in blazing fires.
Wolff does not mince words and, while not a simple read, his memoir it moves very quickly. He did a masterful job of pacing the narrative so as to make things suspenseful without any truly dramatic plot twists. After all, this is his real life. Real life is something that happens, not something that follows a plot line. Wolff takes his real life and weaves it into a fascinating tale that I couldn't put down.
~Scott William Foley, author of Souls Triumphant
Not surprisingly, the main identity seeker in THIS BOY'S LIFE is "this boy." Toby lives with his divorced mother and her man friend, the physically abusive Roy. As the book opens, Toby and his mother are fleeing Florida and Roy for Utah, where they believe they can get rich by prospecting for uranium (this is the early 1950's, and atomic bombs were all the rage). Roy follows them to Utah where they settle for a while, but Roy's insistence on having children prompts Toby's mother to take him on the road again. By the luck of the bus schedule draw, they end up in Seattle. Over time, Toby's mother meets another man, Dwight, eventually decides to marry him (to give Toby a father figure), and moves into Dwight's home in the small town of Concrete. Along the way, Toby has changed his name to Jack because a girl in his class was named Toby, and because he likes Jack London stories. Roy has introduced Toby/Jack to rifles, and Dwight introduces him to the Boy Scouts.
Toby is not alone in seeking an identity.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was okay....not sure why it received such rave reviews.
It was well written. But drab and mundane. Creativity please.
We all have problems. Some just need to fail a million times before beating them. Good book to make you thunkPublished 1 month ago by wtrbby8876
Interesting and well written. Good introduction to a great author. I look forward to reading many more of his book.Published 2 months ago by Hayden E. Norris
I loved the writing style. If I had not known Wolff's success I may not have finished! At times it was so dark and depressing but his style kept me going. Read morePublished 2 months ago by D. Persons
Read for a writing class. Overall a very good memoir about a young man who is searching for an identity. A good read for young adults on up.Published 3 months ago by Erick Lopez
Picked this up after reading Mary Karr's Lit b/c she mentions Tobias Wolff several times in her memoir. Loved Mary's book so much more.Published 3 months ago by kerry egleston