"As a little boy, I had a dream that my father had taken me to the woods where there was a dead body. He buried it and told me I must never tell. It was the only thing we'd ever done together as father and son, and I promised not to tell. But unlike most dreams, the memory of this one never left me. And sometimes…I wasn't altogether sure about one thing: was it just a dream?"
When Augusten Burroughs was small, his father was a shadowy presence in his life: a form on the stairs, a cough from the basement, a silent figure smoking a cigarette in the dark. As Augusten grew older, something sinister within his father began to unfurl. Something dark and secretive that could not be named.
Betrayal after shocking betrayal ensued, and Augusten's childhood was over. The kind of father he wanted didn't exist for him. This father was distant, aloof, uninterested…
And then the "games" began.
With A Wolf at the Table, Augusten Burroughs makes a quantum leap into untapped emotional terrain: the radical pendulum swing between love and hate, the unspeakably terrifying relationship between father and son. Told with scorching honesty and penetrating insight, it is a story for anyone who has ever longed for unconditional love from a parent. Though harrowing and brutal, A Wolf at the Table will ultimately leave you buoyed with the profound joy of simply being alive. It's a memoir of stunning psychological cruelty and the redemptive power of hope.
A searing, emotional portrait of a son who wants nothing more than the love his father will not grant him, Burroughs's latest memoir (after 2004's Dry) is indeed powerful. Absent is the wry humor of Running with Scissors and the absurd poignancy of Burroughs's years living with his mother's Svengali-like psychiatrist. Instead, Burroughs focuses on the years he lived both in awe and fear of his philosophy professor father in Amherst, Mass. Despite frequent trips with his mother to escape his father's alcoholic rages, Burroughs was determined to win his father's affection, secretly touching the man's wallet and cigarettes and even going so far as to make a surrogate dad with pillows and discarded clothing. Only after his father's neglect or cruelty leads to the death of Burroughs's beloved guinea pig during one of the family's many separations does the son turn against the father. Avoiding self-pity, Burroughs paints his father with unwavering honesty, forcing the reader to confront, as he did, a man who even on his deathbed, refused his son a hint of affection. His father missed so much, Burroughs muses, not knowing his son. Luckily, Burroughs does not deny the reader such an enormous pleasure.
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While I've loved all of Burroughs' other novels, this one was difficult to read on a purely emotional level. Burroughs captures the voice of a sad, lonely, and confused little boy living with a father who alternately ignores or torments him. It's so vivid, so sad, and so monstrous it is painful to read.
I'm giving it 5 stars for the writing, anything this powerful is worthy of 5 stars. But I never want to read a book this heartbreaking again.
Emotional Roller Coaster
This story of a profoundly dysfunctional family is disturbing at best. A thoroughly captivating tale where one's hopes for a happy ending are not forthcoming.
Read this book!
Yes, this book definitely made me cry a few times, but more than that, it inspired me to reconnect with my own father after years of estrangement. So much of this book reminded me of my childhood that it sometimes felt like it was written for my eyes only. In reality I think that Burroughs is just THAT good at conveying universal childhood fears and desires. This book isn't just incredibly entertaining, it's also free therapy!