Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Townie” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.76  ·  Rating details ·  7,289 ratings  ·  1,177 reviews
An acclaimed novelist reflects on his violent past and a lifestyle that threatened to destroy him - until he was saved by writing.

After their parents divorced in the 1970s, Andre Dubus III and his three siblings grew up with their exhausted working mother in a depressed Massachusetts mill town saturated with drugs and crime. To protect himself and those he loved from stree
Hardcover, 387 pages
Published February 28th 2011 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2011)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Townie, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Karen I listened to this book on an MP3, most of the time while I was working in my yard. I was there, weeding my garden when I came to the ending. I cried …moreI listened to this book on an MP3, most of the time while I was working in my yard. I was there, weeding my garden when I came to the ending. I cried listening to it. I cried for the hell their lives had been. I think I cried, too, because they seem to have somehow emerged from their experiences stronger and closer as a family and I had hope for a better future for them all. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,289 ratings  ·  1,177 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Townie
Andrew Smith
Sep 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The most interesting and moving memoir I’ve ever read. This book tracks the life - particularly the early life - of this excellent writer through a series of roughly chronological memories and anecdotes. Brought up in tough New England towns, he tells of how he was the recipient of regular beatings from the local hard cases. This pattern continued as he moved from one run down area to the next until he decided to change things by developing his own body, through boxing and weight lifting, to ena ...more
Mar 01, 2011 rated it did not like it
I have never read any of Dubus' books, because back when he was popular I Didn't Do Tragic. His memoir got good buzz, though, so I decided to give it a try. Let's just say that I don't plan to read any of his fictional books, ever.

I feel bad for Dubus. He got a raw deal, with a father who couldn’t be bothered to spend time with his children and a mom who was too busy and exhausted to pay adequate attention to them. With the exception of his younger sister, Dubus' siblings were adrift and had pro
Barbara H
Feb 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
The major focus of this soul-baring memoir of Andre Dubus III is in Haverhill, Massachusetts, a city bordering New Hampshire, in northeastern Massachusetts. It was a former mill town and industrial city, which in the 19th and early half of the 20th century was known as the “Queen Slipper City” because of its tanneries and shoe manufacturing. They boasted that 1/10 of the shoes made in the US were made there. It is located on the Merrimack River. I lived there for a few years and found it to be a ...more
Nov 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a rough book. It is about violence in all its forms, except war and genocide. Violence on a personal level. If swear words and rape and drugs are going to put you off, well then maybe this isn't a book for you. But read on. It is also about a dysfunctional family. I don't like dysfunctional family stories, or that is what I thought! But hey there is an exception to every rule. Maybe I so very much liked it because it is no story; it is autobiographical! I also know that I liked it becaus ...more
Feb 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
I totally agree with Dwight Garner of the New York Times when he writes of this book, "Townie is a better, harder book than anything (Dubus III) has yet writer; it pays off on every bet that's been placed on him. A sleek muscle car of a memoir."

The core theme of the memoir is men's, particularly his, relationship to violence. As a kid he was a victim of it. This part of the book was hard to read and I almost bailed out on the book because I wanted him to stop being a victim and stand up for hims
Neil White
Feb 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Dubus's novels are difficult to read without getting worked up into a frenzy that involves symptoms not unlike severe stress or paranoia. At least for me, anyway. Shortness of breath, increased heart rate, even sweats - these things happen. His memoir does not include the same scenes of riveting tension and personal anguish that populate his other works, but I found myself still getting worked up reading this - especially the early scenes of his torment as a young child.

A skinny kid, raised by a
Mar 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Like most of my books, I read this on my ipad and kindle. At one point when I was about to quit, I clicked to find I was 40% through the book. Do editors still exist? Who would allow the first 40% of a book to be little more than a series of school yard brawls, replete with description of injuries, names of malefactors, and explanation of grudges with thin strips of family life laid between. The idea of a memoir is not only to render a life but also to understand it. Although after 40%, the book ...more
Jul 25, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: biography
I got two thirds of the way through this book and I surrended. If this was fiction, I would say that the main character is a damaged and flawed person with serious anger issues. Sadly, it is a biography and I just cannot care about a man who in his mid twenties needs to run around a town looking to beat up people for what he thinks are insults. Or looking for insults so he can get into a fight. No signs of redemption, although, since he wrote some good books later on one can assume he figures ou ...more
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adandoned
It was like getting a tooth drilled or being hit over the head by the same damn bat. I'll pass on this one- thank you very much.

The same scenes repeated endlessly. Hopelessness, cruelty, fear and abandonment abound in this book. It's a bleak tale and a place I choose not to visit any longer than reading the 67 pages I spent there.

I've believed Dubus to be brilliant based on "House of Sand and Fog" but the writing in this book is meandering, inconclusive and confusing. Often I would read a sente
Jun 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Wow. It's eight o' clock on the last night of June. The grand children are in bed, and this is when I usually open up my book and read for the evening. The problem is that I finished "Townie" last night, and now I am achingly homesick for Haverhill.

This is rather ridiculous, since (1) I have never been to Haverhill and (2) the town and the life that Dubus portrays, at great length and with much repetition, are as gritty, as violent, as unappealing as anyplace that one might imagine. This was hel
Jessica Keener
May 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One of the best memoirs I've read. I loved it for the forgiveness he came to, for the honesty he brought to the issue of fighting and violence and the impulse to fight and the transformation that happened to him as he faced the emptiness of violence and the shame of it. I loved how he addressed violence and really parsed it out for all the things that it signifies for people---the glorification of it, the defense of it, the vulnerability behind it, the mask of it. That's just some of what I love ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Feb 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
First, I learned from his father's Wikipedia page, that His surname is pronounced "Duh-BYOOSE", with the accent falling on the second syllable, as in "profuse". Maybe you knew that already, but I had to look it up, because it was driving me nuts not to know for certain.

Years ago, I read his House of Sand and Fog, and although I can't remember most of it, I do remember that I loved the prose, and that it was a very moving story. At the time I read it, I wasn't writing reviews or even notes for my
Aug 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: literary working class fiction
Recommended to Ed by: my wife saw it reviewed somewhere
Back in 1984, I reviewed Andre Dubus's fine novella We Don't Live Here Anymore for the Roanoke Times. It was a non-paying gig I did for the sheer joy I took in reading fiction like Mr. Dubus's. Now all these years later, I read the memoir written by his son, Andre Dubus III.

Andre is about my age. We grew up with the same music and pop culture. That's one reason why I like his Townie. Rambling, detailed, and gritty, his life story is well worth reading. Andre was a boxer, and he often got into s
Apr 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
I typically review children's picture books and middle grade/young adult fiction on Thursdays, but I have to make an exception today. I recently finished reading TOWNIE, an amazing memoir by the writer Andre Dubus III, and it is one of those rare and precious books that touch the soul and leave a lasting impression. I'm still sorting through my reading experience, but these are the words that come to mind: courageous, honest, transformative, redemptive.

In the book Dubus tells of his childhood in
Apr 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I grew up in Haverhill, Mass, and lied about being from elsewhere for most of my life. It was a rough town in rough years.

Mr. Dubus perfectly evoked the violence and hardscrabble existence of living there. He honored the New England tradition of providing real estate as a character and moreover he did justice to Haverhill by making her as worthy a character as Miss Havisham: formerly beautiful now past her prime, a wreck but one deserving of pity.

How interesting that he called himself a "Townie
Jul 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was a little difficult reading for hit close to home. Single mother raising 4 kids in a violent neighborhood. Dubus takes us through his upbringing and what has to be done to survive. I did get a little sick of all the violence at one point and wondered when he was going to turn it all around. He gets there, it just takes a while. Amazing characterizations, gritty read. He doesn't pull any punches when remembering all the details of his life. I found myself relating to Dubus in so m ...more
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I guess I’m just a goddamn meathead.

The intensity of the first third of this book is actually inspiring. Young Andre gets knocked again and again yet still manages to make good. His journey is as harrowing as it is powerful. This is the story of never saying die, of fighting until your last breath.

The second and third portions of the book focus on an aging Andre’s relationship with his father as well as his own psychological stress that he has developed as a result of spending the entirety of hi
Jan 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book was simply amazing. Maybe I liked it so much because I grew up in the 60's and 70's in Massachusetts near an old mill town similiar to Haverhill. Maybe because I loved The House of Sand and Fog & The Garden of Last Days. Not sure but it was a gripping read. I don't usually read Memoirs with the exception of Life by Keith Richards, but I was hooked from page one in Townie. What a tough life Andre had as a boy growing up. The fact that he became a wonderful author is truly amazing! I hig ...more
Richard Gilbert
Jun 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Townie is one of the best memoirs I've read, and I've read a lot of memoirs. It is masterfully written, paced, and structured. I was gripped by the unfolding narrative, really cared and was interested in the guy's plight, and by its themes of neglectful fathers and male violence. So many powerful male issues here, though I don't know if it's a book of primary appeal to guys, because women are sure affected by their fathers, brothers, sons, and lovers.

Andre Dubus III has earned my complete respec
Mary Rowen
Aug 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The memoir Townie by Andre Dubus III is a striking and worthwhile read for so many reasons. It’s always interesting to learn how a bestselling author got his start, but I’d always assumed that Dubus—best known for his dark and gripping novel House of Sand and Fog—had it a bit easier than most. After all, he’s the son of one of America’s greatest short story writers (the late Andre Dubus II).

But Townie makes it clear that this wasn’t the case for the younger Dubus. It turns out that he grew up in
Ruth Seeley
Feb 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'm not the world's biggest fan of Andre Dubus III. I struggled with The House of Sand and Fog (although it was made into a fantastic movie, one of the few instances when I've preferred the movie to the book - The Kite Runner was the other one). And I have no memory whatsoever of The Garden of Last Days, although I remember liking it better than Sand and Fog.

Initially I found this memoir of Dubus' childhood and youth a bit of a struggle. But I persevered, and I'm very glad I did. I wouldn't agre
Apr 10, 2011 rated it liked it
First book on my new Kindle.

I finished it this morning, and much as I liked his House of Sand and Fog, I would not recommend this memoir. It's endlessly repetitive about his getting into fights as a young teen and even a young man, trying to prove that he's not a wimp. He lifts weights and then he beats up some more people who he thinks are either after him or trying to take advantage of some woman. The bits about his father were somewhat interesting, but I found that mainly this book was much a
Apr 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, memoir, 2015
“That's Dubus's son. Look at him. He's such a townie.

I'd heard the word before. They used it for the men they'd see at Ronnie D's bar down in Bradford Square, the place where my father drank with students and his friends. It's where some men from the town drank, too – plumbers and electricians and millworkers, Sheetrock hangers and housepainters and off-duty cops: townies.

Townie: A Memoir by Andre Dubus III is a tough read: After a pretty happy first ten years, the author's father (a highly res
Jan 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
A memoir in three parts by the son of a respected literary writer. His father divorces the mother of his four children to chase younger women and virtually abandons them to poverty and neglect in a succession of New England mill towns. In part I he has a miserable childhood and gets beat up a lot by neighborhood bullies. In part II (beginning on page 183) he learns to fight and beats up a lot of other people. In part III (page 277), just as his award wining novel "House of Sand and Fog" is publi ...more
Rural Soul
Feb 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This man really grew in front of my eyes through this book. A bullied child to a bodybuilder. A street brawler to a writer. A street brawler writer to nonviolent thinker. I have read so many autobiographies but this would be best of best.
My words are lost.

I had seen a movie named "House of Sand and Fog" in my teens. I was discovering on that time that movies were more than kicks, punches and blazing guns. The tragic story had left very deep marks in my soul. A few days ago this title popped up
Feb 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
After she finished reading Andre Dubus III's new memoir Townie one of my friends called me and asked, "Is this book as good as I think it is or is it just that I grew up around all of these places he writes about?" I told her that while place is certainly important in the book, the book is exactly as good as she thinks it is. And it is.

And so what of this place where my friend, and Dubus, and I now live? This place is the north shore of Massachusetts, once known for its down-in-the-mouth mill an
Remember the TV show, BATMAN? All the fistfights? How your screen blossomed with words like BIFF! POW! CRA-A-ACK! SPLAT! and so forth? Well roll out the soundtrack and play it as you read Andre Dubus III's TOWNIE. It's one street fight after another (peppered with a few boxing matches for variety, I suppose).

Call me a Pip, but I had Great Expectations for this book. I expected a literary memoir of a kid who cut his teeth on the art of writing with a well-known, published dad. I expected allusio
Jun 30, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have enjoyed the short stories of Andre Dubus (the father), so when I learned that his son had written a memoir, I was interested in checking it out. The NYT gave it a favorable review, and somewhere along the line I remembered that he was also the author of "House of Sand and Fog", which I also liked very much. So I was surprised and disappointed when halfway through the book, I completely lost interest in it and couldn't read another page.

He relates his family's story: his parents were very
Feb 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Such an excellent memoir! I love books that transport you somewhere else, but Dubus' work holds you tightly to the earth and helps remind you that kindness can spring from cruelty. The relationship he forged with his father is touching. He recounts an upbringing far from ideal with the street toughness that helped him survive and let's you know: he doesn't want your pity, or your empathy either.

From watching Batman with Kurt Vonnegut when he was a kid to saving himself through boxing to his Cat
Martie Nees Record
Dubus’ father, a successful writer with a ‘name’ in the business, left the family in the 1970s. He and his siblings lived in poverty with their mom in neighborhoods that sounded like they were right out of the book/movie Fight Club. At the same time his father was living and teaching on a nearby college debating literature. The core of this story is about a father son relationship and the strange conflict between the college population and the townsfolk, “townies”. The dichotomy in Dubus’s life ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
"Townie: A Memior" to become movie! 5 73 Dec 24, 2013 11:14AM  
South Shore Readers: Discussion: Townie 31 37 Oct 08, 2012 04:47AM  
Live Video Chat with Andre Dubus III 50 58 Sep 01, 2012 02:48AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Never Far Away
  • Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So
  • Every Dog Has a Gift: True Stories of Dogs Who Bring Hope & Healing into Our Lives
  • You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness
  • His Other Wife
  • Angels: Who They Are and How They Help-What the Bible Reveals
  • Dogs & Devotion
  • Huck: The Remarkable True Story of How One Lost Puppy Taught a Family - and a Whole Town - About Hope and Happy Endings
  • My Korean Deli: Risking It All for a Convenience Store
  • The Schoolmaster's Daughter
  • Hope Endures: My Story of Losing Faith, Leaving Mother Teresa, and Finding My Purpose
  • Wrecker
  • Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man: A Memoir
  • The Folk of the Air Series 3 Books Collection Set By Holly Black ( The Cruel Prince, The Wicked King, Hardback-The Queen of Nothing )
  • Wilderness
  • The Dutch House
  • Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration
See similar books…
Andre Dubus III is the author of The Garden of Last Days, House of Sand and Fog (a #1 New York Times bestseller, Oprah’s Book Club pick, and finalist for the National Book Award) and Townie, winner of an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. His writing has received many honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Magazine Award, and two Pushcart Prizes. He lives with ...more

News & Interviews

  Some people love books. Some people fall in love. And some people fall in love with books about falling in love. Every month our team...
24 likes · 2 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“And I felt more like me than I ever had, as if the years I'd lived so far had formed layers of skin and muscle over myself that others saw as me when the real one had been underneath all along, and I knew writing- even writing badly- had peeled away those layers, and I knew then that if I wanted to stay awake and alive, if I wanted to stay me, I would have to keep writing.” 23 likes
“ was something she willed herself to show us, something she raised from deep inside herself as a promise for what could be. Now her life seemed to have opened up into it as if it had been waiting for her. (215)” 7 likes
More quotes…