This Boy’s Life: A Memoir by Tobias Wolff – A Book Review

This book proved a superb read.  In all seriousness, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  I do so because, beyond his instinctive narrative style that both captivates and delights, Wolff substantiates the hard and fast rule in life that no matter how difficult of a childhood, one can always improve upon oneself. 

Wolff is currently a professor at Stanford (unless things have changed without my knowledge), earned his B.A. at Oxford and received his M.S. at Stanford as well.  This is incredible considering the childhood he laid out in This Boy’s Life.  Wolff was not a good little boy, to say the least.  He was guilty of lying, stealing, cursing, fighting, forgery, and being rather unattached to anything or anyone but his mother.  He spent several years with an abusive stepfather who, while never out-and-out beating him, put him through psychological trauma just as severe.  It’s amazing this man has become one of America’s greatest writers, but I suppose all great talent was forged in blazing fires.

Wolff does not mince words and, while not a simple read, his memoir it moves very quickly.  He did a masterful job of pacing the narrative so as to make things suspenseful without any truly dramatic plot twists.  After all, this is his real life.  Real life is something that happens, not something that follows a plot line.  Wolff takes his real life and weaves it into a fascinating tale that I couldn’t put down.