Click here to read reviewer Steven Rosen's take on A Wolf at the Table.
In his first memoir, Running With Scissors, Augusten Burroughs detailed his teenage years while he lived in the crazy home of his mother's psychiatrist, where he's sent to live after it becomes clear that his mother can no longer care for him. In Dry, his next memoir, Burroughs chronicled his battle with alcoholism while working at an ad agency. Both of his earlier memoirs were simultaneously funny and heartbreaking, and un-put-downable.
A Wolf at the Table, the prequel to these memoirs, takes us back to Burroughs' early childhood, before Running With Scissors. This memoir examines his relationship with his father, who on his best days is a distant alcoholic. Other times he is presented as a monster with bleeding, peeling skin (he has psoriasis) who murders Burroughs' guinea pig and tortures his son and wife psychologically.
A philosophy professor at a Massachusetts college, Burroughs' father had no time or affection for his son, creating a son so starved for affection he makes a stuffed doll dressed in his father's clothes to cuddle with. His marriage to Augusten's mother is filled with constant arguments and physical violence.
A Wolf at the Table is a dark tale, made all the more darker because Burroughs' humor, which was so present is his earlier books, is absent. The writing in the book is different and at times much less effective than his earlier memoirs. Rather than letting his harrowing stories speak for themselves, at times we are clobbered by metaphors overwrought language. But like his other memoirs, we are taken on a unexpected journey we never would have gone on without the author's brilliant imagination.