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This Boy's Life

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  15,505 ratings  ·  823 reviews
This unforgettable memoir, by one of our most gifted writers, introduces us to the young Toby Wolff, by turns tough and vulnerable, crafty and bumbling, and ultimately winning. Separated by divorce from his father and brother, Toby and his mother are constantly on the move, yet they develop an extraordinarily close, almost telepathic relationship. As Toby fights for identi ...more
Kindle Edition, 1st Grove Press Ed edition, 304 pages
Published November 30th 1998 by Grove Press (first published 1982)
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Jeff
Part of moving from being a teenager to a functional adult is seeking your own identity outside of what friends and family think of you. Tobias Wolff’s struggle with this is in part what makes this book such a great read. Although he grew up in 1950’s Washington state and his life experiences are somewhat different from mine, it’s the core of feelings of being a teenager that never change and are the same no matter what your circumstances.

Part of what makes Wolff’s struggle that much harder is t
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Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

I read this book almost two months ago and have struggled to come up with some kind (any kind) of review. Sometimes when I read a memoir I’m struck with the question “what made this person think their personal history was novel worthy?” Such is the case with This Boy’s Life. Sure Tobias Wolf had a shitty childhood, but when compared to other autobiographies (Night stands out as the most monumental personal history I can think of, or ev
...more
Malbadeen
Dec 04, 2013 Malbadeen rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sarah
Recommended to Malbadeen by: Sarah's couch
Shelves: memoir-ish
I can't very well articulate why this book elicited a 5 star response from me, which is why I enjoyed it so much. Despite not being able to put my finger on it, I found myself wanting to get back to it all the time.
Not a reaction I typically have to memoirs by established authors.
He spoke in away that maintained the feel of adolescence without condescending hindsight or grandiose naivety. The writing seems so simple and concise and yet there were numerous times when I had to fight my urge to und
...more
Ruth Turner


DNF

I read just over half before calling it quits.

Toby’s life really wasn’t as bad as I expected. Whether or not that’s because of the way he tells his story, I’m not sure. It was flat and lacked feeling; very matter-of-fact.

The narrative itself seemed endless. It’s dreary, slow and boring. It also jumps around at times, enough to be confusing.

All this was bad enough, but I soldiered valiantly onwards...until it came to Toby beating the family dog with a floor mop. A hunting dog that hid in fear
...more
Cindy
I read This Boy's Life in one day. It is that rare kind of memoir page-turner that compels not because of blood and gore, or because you have to see what the insane parents are going to do next, but because of the writer's voice itself. This is a boy you just want to listen to. He is so genuine and honest that even while throwing rocks through windows, forging checks, and lying to himself and everyone around him, I found him unbearably sweet and vulnerable.

EXCERPT:
"Her name was Alice. My class
...more
Helen
This memoir would be overwhelmingly sad for me, had I not already read Old School by the same author and know that he becomes a successful author and teacher of literature at Stanford. But if you didn’t know that this child redeems himself in the end, this would be sad, a sad tale indeed.

Tobias’ parents divorced when he was a young boy, and his mother set off looking for a better life, leaving her oldest son with her ex-husband. In 1955 it was hard for a single mother, and life treated Tobias’
...more
Katherine
Okay, so it's a complete coincidence that the first memoir I read after Running with Scissors, after which I vowed to go on a search for good confessional memoirs, turned out to be not only a stunning example of how to do it right, but also one of the best books I've ever read, one of those books that lands in your lap like a meteor, that makes you want to yell WHO IS THIS WRITER AND WHERE HAS HE BEEN ALL MY LIFE?

This Boy's Life focuses on how teenage Toby Wolff learned to stand up to his abusiv
...more
Casey
Tobias Wolff was a professor at Stanford. He was my friend Laurel's Italian partner. His friends called him Toby. He scared the bejesus outta me. This is technically unfair, as I never once spoke to him or took one of his classes. I think it was the mustache that did it. It was a very intimidating mustache.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with the book, which I loved. I just thought you'd like to know.
Jason
Tobias Wolff is a man known to those who love short stories as something of a master of the form. His novel, Old School failed to capitalize on his brilliance of the short form, so I must admit to some qualms about his memoir. I couldn't have been more wrong. Wolff analyses his upbringing with the clarity of an outsider, giving us insight into his deeds and (more frequently) misdeeds. From constant travels with his single mother escaping a bad relationship to an abusive step father, from mocking ...more
Ellie
This is a very emotional and touching tale about a young boy growing up with a hopeless mother and an abusive step-father. The author describes his childhood in ways that almost anyone can relate to. While you can feel the angst of the writer's plight, you can also laugh you tits off at the hilarity he chooses to make out of it in his later and wiser years. It's impressive that this juvenile delinquent turned out to be such a famous writer. This novel was not only well written, it was a funny an ...more
Caris
So, yeah. This one's a lot like The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls in that it follows a child as he gets bounced around the country. Wolff, however, managed to write a far better book.

The story's like this:
A boy and his mother flee the man in their lives only to find other men who may be even worse. Young Tobias moves a lot, with or without his mother, depending on the situation. He finds a strange friend, almost moves to France, steals some things, and forges his way into prep school. The who
...more
Shaun
Having just finished The Night in Question, I was looking forward to reading this. Though a memoir (not my usual choice) that is based on Wolff's childhood as opposed to a collection of short stories, I still had high hopes.

It was okay. The writing was strong and the author consistently provided lots of interesting insight about life in general, however, I just never really got into the story. The character I found most intriguing, his mother, a complex dichotomy whom Wolff describes as strong a
...more
Chris
Wow, I loved this one. I had been familiar with a few of Wolff's short stories (Bullet in the Brain is one of my all time favorites) but this is the first of his longer works that I had read. I felt it described the awkwardness, anxiety and tragic passivity of boyhood perfectly. I reltated to it on so many levels even though I grew up in a different place and time and had a completely different personality than the main character of the book.

It is a dark book, however. Which is something I might
...more
Darwin8u
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 ...more
Hua
The book "This Boy's Life," by Tobias Wolff was written through author's lens in which included his memoir. This novel tells about a mother and son moving from place to place looking for a settlement. Caroline Wolff, the mother, wants to find a best place for his son, Toby. They moved to Seattle and met Dwight Hansen who Caroline thought would be best for Toby therefore they married. However everything wasn't like how Caroline thought due to Dwight Hansen's abusive attitute toward toby through p ...more
Jan
Wolff’s memoir of his nomadic, fatherless childhood searching for an identity and a future is hypnotically engaging. In search of wealth and the right man, his divorced mother moved Toby, who renamed himself Jack, from Florida to Utah to Washington State, where she married Dwight, definitely the wrong man, especially for Jack. "I was bound to accept as my home a place I did not feel at home in,” he writes, “and to take as my father a man who was offended by my existence and would never stop ques ...more
Michelle
This book is a memoir that involves a young boy, Toby(Jack)Wolff and his personal experience living life on the run. Jack and hisi mother is contantly moving after the separation with Jack's father. The story starts with Jack and his mother moving to Utah to make their fortune by mining Uranium. Jack was very close to his mother, who had a abusive childhod. His mom contantly involve herself with violent and abusive men. As a result, Jack is constantly seeking refuge in his imagination and lies. ...more
Mike Conboy
This book had been on my "to read" list for years. I'm glad I finally got to it. It's a beautifully written memoir that captures universal themes of adolescence while telling a very personal and compelling story. No wonder I've often heard it referred to by other writers as a favorite.
Blake Nelson
This was especially fun for me being about growing up in the Pacific Northwest. Great tone to this. Great contrast of the dumbness of his early life with the brilliant simplicity of his prose. I enjoyed every word.
Melissa
"All of Dwight's complaints against me had the aim of giving me a definition of myself. They succeeded, but not the way he wished."
Cabs C
This book was one of the most interesting books I have ever read. It is an autobiography by author, Tobias Wolff. It tells of the beginning of his childhood until he finishes (or is expelled from) high School. Tobias and his mother (Rosemary) moved from place to place in search of job opportunities and a chance to enhance their living conditions. They have lived in places such as Florida, Connecticut, and Utah. The majority of the story takes place in Utah. There, Rosemary and Toby (or Jack, whi ...more
Alec Curtis
This Boys Life is written by Tobias Wolff. This book portraits the life of a young boy, Tobias but changes his name to Jack, who goes through many tough times in his life. His mom is always going in and out of abusive relationships and he is constantly getting in trouble. He moves from place to place to escape the relationships and so his mom can find a good paying job and that can put Jack through school. Jack is not the most fortunate boy you will ever see but he is given the opportunity by th ...more
Andrew Rowe
“Dwight kept on babbling on about the virtues of Concrete but all I could think about was shooting that turkey”. This boy’s life is a masterful memoir piece written by Tobias Wolff, it is written through the point of view of Toby who represents Tobias Wolff as a child. The novel explores the truth of a child’s childhood. At times Toby can be an unreliable narrator; the reader might doubt some of the stories from this young anarchic live wire. Although the memoir is written through the point of v ...more
Elise
This Boy's Life was on a list of books I got to choose from in order to throw together this year's 8th grade ELA reading curriculum. I was interested in adding a more modern memoir to the reading list (the other memoir option was "Night," which I have not taught successfully in the past). I've read some of Tobias Wolff before (Old School, some short stories) and liked it all, so I decided to give This Boy's Life a shot.

Within the first few pages, I started to regret my choice of adding this to m
...more
Cindy Knoke
The four best memoirs I have ever read, and I have read too many, are Frank McCort’s, Angela’s Ashes, “Tobias Wolff’s, “This Boy’s Life,” Geoffrey Wolff’s, “The Duke of Deception,” and Jeanette Walls, “The Glass Castle.”

These books are similar in describing horrendous childhood’s of upheaval and instability, complicated by mentally ill, vagabond, eccentric parents, and a sort of lower middle class poverty. (I know that’s an oxymoron, read the books and you’ll understand). But the similarities go
...more
Muhammad Salman
This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff is a memoir similar to those of Dawn by Elie Wiesel. This book is about a boy who is named Jack. He grew up in an abusive household because of his mother who continues to get abused by men she meets. That is because Jack's mom had an abusive childhood. I can relate that to the world because today in the world there are so many women who are abused. I can also connect this book to "Woman at Point Zero" by Nawal El Saadawi because it shows how men have abused Firdau ...more
Faye
"This Boy's Life" is a beautifully written memoir crafted to focus more on atmosphere, observation, reflection, and moments in time than on a tight, fast-paced plot. In fact, if you asked me about the "plot" of this memoir it might seem rather thin -- a boy grows up with a mother who moves from place to place as she gets involved with and marries the wrong men, and the boy is left to not only survive some difficult circumstances but to figure out life's lessons on his own as he eventually finds ...more
Michaela
This Boy’s Life is a memoir dealing with guilt, abandonment, cruelty and lies, but most of all it is a novel about a never dying belief of one’s self. It is an upsetting story about abuse, and about wanting and believing that you deserve a better life. Written in a spare, clear and hypnotic Hemingway-way, a fixating novel.
Toby Wolff, later Jack, and his mother are on the road. They are moving to Utah to start a new life, but unfortunately his mother’s boyfriend Roy comes after them. Jack and hi
...more
Alexis
In a time when conversations about creative nonfiction are preoccupied by concerns of truth in memoir, the nature of consciousness, identity, and fragmentation, it can be easy to forget about fundamentals like story. Important in and of themselves, these big conversations signal that a necessary codification of the genre has emerged and continues to grow.

But the meta conversations can get tedious, grandiose, even absurd, and sometimes we need to remember that readers come for the story and stay
...more
Hui Lin
This is a really depressing memoir. The protagonist, Toby, who later renamed himself as Jack, went through a tough life. After his parents divorce, Jack is separated from his father and brother to live with his mother. They move from place to place trying to make a living, and life for them was never stable. Jack's mother, Rosemary continues her life meeting various men who are abusive and violent. They didn't treat Jack really nice and as a result, he never got the love from family like normal ...more
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Fake book! 4 158 Jul 02, 2014 10:06AM  
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Tobias Jonathan Ansell Wolff is a writer of fiction and nonfiction.

He is best known for his short stories and his memoirs, although he has written two novels.

Wolff is the Ward W. and Priscilla B. Woods Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University, where he has taught classes in English and creative writing since 1997. He also served as the director of the Creative Writ
...more
More about Tobias Wolff...
Old School The Night in Question In Pharaoh's Army: Memories of the Lost War Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories In the Garden of the North American Martyrs

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“Fearlessness in those without power is maddening to those who have it.” 61 likes
“Knowing that everything comes to an end is a gift of experience, a consolation gift for knowing that we ourselves are coming to an end. Before we get it we live in a continuous present, and imagine the future as more of that present. Happiness is endless happiness, innocent of its own sure passing. Pain is endless pain.” 27 likes
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