Rosa's Reviews > This Boy's Life

This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff
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's review
Mar 03, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: biography, non-fiction

I started reading This Boy’s Life with a familiar, comforting relish. As the book starts, Toby is 10 years old, and I was then 1, and though our lives were nothing alike, I was eager to get a true-story glimpse of the early years of my own youth when I was still much too young to be able to carry any useful memories forward with me. His would have to do.

From there, I’d soon jump a full generation, finding that I thought about Wolff’s mom Rosemary so much more, with Toby-now-Jack almost becoming a secondary character to me, his boy’s life not one I could relate to much at all — especially after I flipped back to the half-page foreword realizing his mother had read this book too, and helped him proof it: What did she think now, looking back on this life they shared and reading what most mothers probably would prefer to keep unknown? They were so close, mother and son, and yet so far apart when I’d ache for them to be closer, and I could not help but think about my own relationship with my son, and that bond we share. Throughout my reading I’d also keep thinking about how different boys and girls are, with no judgement really about our genders being better or worse, but definitely and inexplicably different. It was strange, I knew Wolff had wanted to “have done my best to make [this book] tell a truthful story,” but it felt like fiction to me — not in his telling it, but in my feelings about it — I could achieve the emotional distance from him possible when you read fiction. Yet I couldn’t manage that distance with Rosemary, perhaps because of how my own mother’s instinct kept kicking in and refusing to be objective. Soon the plight of these women in Wolff’s life consistently overshadowed all else for me: Oh Norma, Rosemary, how could you have settled for so little?

I zoomed through this book in two sittings, wanting to quickly learn of the story, yet I did take notice of Wolff’s writing, understanding the acclaim he’s received. This is a book I will probably read again sometime to savor more slowly now that Wolff’s story is known to me, and I can call upon more patience, taking time to better appreciate it.

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Reading Progress

March 3, 2011 – Shelved
June 18, 2011 – Started Reading
June 18, 2011 – Shelved as: biography
June 19, 2011 – Shelved as: non-fiction
June 19, 2011 –
page 65
June 19, 2011 – Finished Reading

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