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Publisher's Summary

First published in 1989, this scarifying memoir has become a classic of the genre, as notable for its artful structure and finely wrought prose as for the events it describes. The book essentially launched the memoir craze that has been going strong ever since. It was made into a movie in 1993.
The story is pretty grim: teen-aged 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 listeners come away exhilarated.
©1989 Tobias Wolff (P)2010 HighBridge Company
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Critic Reviews

"Unforgettable." ( Time )
"At once compassionate and deeply disturbing." ( The New York Times Magazine)
"A jewel-like memoir of childhood in the 1950s...Lucid, bitter, precise, terribly sad: the real-life equivalent of Wolff's acclaimed fiction." ( Kirkus Reviews)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Darwin8u on 04-27-13

Beautiful, unsentimental memoir of youth

One of my favorite memoirs of all time. IT was perfect in its pacing, its pitch. It was a beautiful, but unsentimental look at youth, poverty, family, and all the cracks and fissures that the world creates to swallow the dreams of youth. Wolff's language still rings with me. I find myself, going back and reading whole passages of 'This Boy's Life' just to drink the language and the rub against the energy and charge of Wolff's vitality. A good memoirist gets the reader to experience the artist's past life through his words, a great memoirist seduces the reader into a place where the reader suddenly recognizes the universal experiences in our shared lives.

There were parts of the book I felt like Tobias Wolff was not writing his history, but mine. The details of our lives might have been different, our stories might be adolescent antipoles, but I read Wolff and I think he has robbed me of my emotions, faked my youthful hope, slandered my stripling reputation, and squandered all of my schoolboy potential.

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26 of 28 people found this review helpful


By Parola138 on 10-08-10

Stunningly good

There is something amazing about this audibook. It's the right mix of narrator and author. I saw the film version of this a long time ago and thought it might prevent me from liking the book version. The book is even better. Tobias Wolff writes in a very spare, very brooding style. This book really did its job of transporting me to a different time and place in a situation I will never be in, myself. I also highly recommend "our Story Begins," by the same author. That was what got me interested in this book, and I thought those short stories from 'Story Begins,' were great. It's a strange thing that people who write books like Twilight are famous and no one has heard of Tobias Wolff, who unquestionably creates art with what he does.

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11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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