This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff

This Boy’s Life is a memoir about a young boy growing up in the 1950’s. After his parents’ divorce, Toby finds himself constantly on the move as he and his mother search for the better life that always seems to elude them. Through this heartfelt and often humorous narrative, Toby recounts his adolescent search for identity, while regaling the reader with stories of his wild schemes.

This is a re-read for me. I first read this book when I was a senior in high school and find myself in one of life’s many full circle moments as I read it again in preparation to read it as an English teacher with my high school seniors. I enjoyed this book the second time around as much as the first. Toby, a.k.a. Jack, is a great character that is easy to relate to. He is precocious, hopelessly naïve at times, and consumed with the confidence that only comes with youth.

"When we are green, still half-created, we believe that our dreams are rights, that the world is disposed to act in our best interests, and that falling and dying are for quitters. We live on the innocent and monstrous assurance that we alone, of all the people ever born, have a special arrangement whereby we will be allowed to stay green forever.”

The story perfectly captures that awkward period between childhood and adulthood, where we all think we have things figured out, when in reality we know nothing and are just beginning to discover who we are. While Jack’s childhood is somewhat unconventional, there are universal elements that ring true for us all – the quest to define ourselves, to experiment with new things and identities, the need to find acceptance while remaining unique, etc.

The book is funny, at times poignant, and is an enjoyable read from start to finish.

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