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A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 29, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Significant Seven, April 2008: When I started reading A Wolf at the Table, I thought I knew what to expect. Augusten Burroughs captures intense experience with an inexplicably cool remove, imparting a stillness and purity to emotions that would likely run amok in anyone else's hands. I love this quality of his writing, and it's present in full force in this memoir of a childhood spent in thrall to a predatory and deeply unpredictable father. What I wasn't prepared for was the suspense--the dread-filled, nearly sonorous waiting for the worst to happen. An artful sort of bait-and-switch happens in the telling: Burroughs brings you to the brink of a terrible catharsis more than once, but the break in tension never comes. It is profoundly sad, remarkably tender, and fueled by a sense of love and reverence that only a child knows. --Anne Bartholomew

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A searing, emotional portrait of a son who wants nothing more than the love his father will not grant him, Burroughs's latest memoir (after 2004's Dry) is indeed powerful. Absent is the wry humor of Running with Scissors and the absurd poignancy of Burroughs's years living with his mother's Svengali-like psychiatrist. Instead, Burroughs focuses on the years he lived both in awe and fear of his philosophy professor father in Amherst, Mass. Despite frequent trips with his mother to escape his father's alcoholic rages, Burroughs was determined to win his father's affection, secretly touching the man's wallet and cigarettes and even going so far as to make a surrogate dad with pillows and discarded clothing. Only after his father's neglect—or cruelty—leads to the death of Burroughs's beloved guinea pig during one of the family's many separations does the son turn against the father. Avoiding self-pity, Burroughs paints his father with unwavering honesty, forcing the reader to confront, as he did, a man who even on his deathbed, refused his son a hint of affection. His father missed so much, Burroughs muses, not knowing his son. Luckily, Burroughs does not deny the reader such an enormous pleasure. (Apr.)
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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312342020
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312342029
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (259 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #611,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Augusten Burroughs is the author of the autobiographical works "Running with Scissors," "Dry," "Magical Thinking," "Possible Side Effects" and "A Wolf at the Table," all of which were New York Times bestsellers. "Running with Scissors" remained on the New York Times bestseller list for over two consecutive years and was made into a Golden Globe-nominated film starring Annette Bening. His only novel, "Sellevision," is currently in development as a series for NBC. "Dry," Augusten's memoir of his alcoholism and recovery, is being developed by Showtime. In addition, Burroughs is currently creating an original prime-time series for CBS. Augusten's latest book is called "You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas."

Twice named to Entertainment Weekly's list of the funniest people in America, Augusten has also been the subject of a Vanity Fair cover story and a Jeopardy! answer. His books have made guest appearances in two James Patterson novels, one Linkin Park music video, numerous television shows and a porn movie.

Augusten has been a photographer since childhood and many of his images can be seen on his website, www.augusten.com. He lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

I just listened to the audio book.
Jerry Bishop
I loved this book because it re-created that ominous darkness that children of alcoholics can often live in.
Leigh Perkowski
I tried and tried to get through this book and I really wanted to like it, but this book is just awful.
J. Whalen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

181 of 192 people found the following review helpful By Kendra on May 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have read all of Augusten Burroughs' books. Because he is so brutally honest, it's easy to feel as if you know him when you read him. I've felt that way-- as he shares so much and obviously grows emotionally with each book. He had one of the most horrible childhoods imaginable, yet recounts those incidents with an acerbic sense of humor. As readers, we laugh-- but we laugh at the absurdity of the situation. The situation itself was often not quite as funny. It's almost amazing Burroughs survived many of the events he lived through. Another reviewer stated that he survived 'unscathed'. I wouldn't really agree-- I think he survived with some deep emotional scars. Yet, these scars haven't prevented him from managing to work through these issues to lead a worthwhile and loving life. Most people would be permanently damaged-- Augusten Burroughs is truly an incredible and insightful and lucky human being.

It seems as if only the other day I read Burroughs' last book, Possible Side Effects. Yet, I just discovered this book was published and immediately ordered it. I received it this afternoon and finished it this evening.

Not having read any of the reviews at all, I wasn't sure what to expect but I immediately noticed that this book was entirely different from all his previous books. This isn't humor-- this is an incredible memoir of living with a sociopathic parent. In his past books, he talks about his mother's mental illness, but glosses over his father's. If you read this, you can understand why. He had to be ready to write this. I imagine that writing this book must have been unimaginably painful. Some people would have NEVER been ready to write this.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Connor Diaz on November 15, 2009
Format: Paperback
Having read all of Augusten Burroughs' books, I was hesitant to read this one after I saw some of the negative reviews. But I stand corrected. I think readers who didn't like this book were expecting the hilarity of Running With Scissors and Dry. Wolf at the Table doesn't have the funny-disturbing stories you're used to with Burroughs. Rather, the book is simply disturbing (and heartfelt at the same time). I loved this book. He is stunningly honest, and his detailing of events through the lens of a child is poignant and gripping. It really makes you realize the importance of being a good parent and how much influence, good and bad, you can have on your child.
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48 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Melissa N. VINE VOICE on May 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After I read the first several chapters of "A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father," I was a little disappointed...but only for a short while. I'm a big fan of Augusten Burroughs and have read all of his books. As a result, I was expecting another deeply disturbing yet hilariously funny memoir along the lines of "Running with Scissors" and "Dry." However, Augusten's latest book is unlike anything he's ever written. There is nothing funny about this story, which chronicles the author's relationship with his alcoholic, psychologically disturbed father. In spite of its serious tone, however, I think "A Wolf at the Table" is the best thing Augusten has ever written.

Most of the events described in this book took place early in Augusten's life, before he turned 12 years old. If you've read any of the author's previous books, you know that his family life gives a whole new meaning to the word "dysfunctional." Augusten has written in detail about his mentally disturbed mother and her crazy therapist (who ended up being Augusten's legal guardian for a while). Until now, Augusten never went into much detail about his father, except to say that he was an alcoholic who would often engage in violent fights with his wife. In "A Wolf at the Table," Augusten describes his lifelong desire to connect with his father, who always seemed to wear a mask of complete indifference when it came to his son. Not only was Augusten emotionally neglected by his father, but he was also abused...just not usually in the physical sense. Yes, there were times when Augusten's father hit his son so hard that little boy could barely walk for days, but those incidents don't even begin to compare to the twisted emotional games Augusten's dad (or "Dead," which is how Augusten pronounced "Dad") would play.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Dawn Kessinger VINE VOICE on May 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
While I had no such childhood (or parents) as Augusten's, I can relate to and understand his desperate need for attention, affection, and approval when he was a child. As a young child, his innocent ideas of how to gain all of these things from his father are really heart-rending. When his father shoves him away when Augusten tries to hug him, the 7-year-old makes a game of it and tries to get around the interferring arms (almost as though the arms are separate from his father and it's not really his father who is pushing him away).

Another memory from the book that stands out for me after I've finished the book is when Augusten, maybe he was 7 or 8 or somewhere around there, took some old clothes from his father's closet and added some of his father's cologne and other scents familiar to his father, then stuffed the clothes into a semblance of a person. Then the child Augusten climbed into the forbidden lap of his created father and would fight not to fall asleep for fear of the consequences.

All of the questions Augusten asks his dad (which are very rarely answered), the child's hunger for not just food, but for knowledge and understanding and his place in the world (and dealing with the fear, even as a child, that he will grow up to be like his father) just made me ache.

I found nothing whiny about the details of the memories/stories told: They just felt brutally honest and told from the memory of a child: I don't know too many children who wouldn't cry or be scared when threatened, or faced with constant loss of well-loved pets or the myriad other experiences he was forced to face. The writing grabbed me and held me firm from beginning to end. I've not read a Burroughs book yet that has disappointed me.
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