A Wolf At The Table – Augusten Burroughs Review

Progress on Alternate: 64,181 words

Current Review:

If you have any history of trauma, don’t read this book. I say this with all of the loving kindness I can muster. Not because it’s badly written, but because it’s written TOO WELL. A Wolf At The Table is definitely the darkest of Augusten Burroughs’ books so far, and it’s… unsettling. It made me uncomfortable, and I’m usually relatively hardy with those sorts of things.

The whole book discusses his relationship with his father, a figure of terror for him both when he was younger and as an adult. And I can understand why. In those tales I read about a deeply disturbed and frightening man, and there was such a darkness to this writing, with none of the humour that many people come to expect from his books. It was just darkness.

This is the non-funny side of memoir. This is the life-wrenching, tear you apart, break your heart type of memoir. And every time I re-read it, I know I shouldn’t. I remember that it’s uncomfortable, dark, and scary. But then I re-read it anyway. And I still can’t exactly say why. Especially not, as I am right now, reading it because I can’t sleep at 2am in the morning. This is not the book you read before you sleep. But then, I wasn’t sure I was going to sleep anyway…

The thing about this book is, it’s SO well-written. And… I feel rather odd saying I like it. Or even love it. Because I don’t. I hate it. Intensely. It hurts. But at the same time some part of me keeps it on my shelf. Some part of me recognises good writing for what it is, and real feeling for what it is. And that part is the part that says it likes this. While the rest of me is cowering in a corner telling myself never to read the dratted thing again.

So yes, if you want to read something to help you understand that… that thing. That darkness, those feelings… this is the way to go. If you already understand them, or you have your own thoughts, your own darkness, step back. Possibly with a very fluffy cushion or beloved pet.

-K Hart


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