Toil & Trouble by Augusten Burroughs, 4 stars

When I was in my early twenties, Augusten Burroughs was absolutely my favorite author. Granted, after Running with Scissors released in 2002, he was everyone’s favorite author. Still, I love Burroughs writing for his refreshing awkwardness and amazing sense of humor.

So of course, several years later, when I was a Community Relations Manager at a Barnes & Noble and got to work his booksigning at Printer’s Row Book Fair, it was a dream come true. And somehow I managed not to fall all over myself and act like a crazed superfan (I think?), and even got to chat with him while he signed books.

We talked about Iowa City, one of my favorite places. And we bonded over our love for the trees and the culture in the University Town. That’s how I remember it. He probably doesn’t remember it. But it doesn’t matter. It was awesome!

I haven’t read a lot of his work in recent years, but was intrigued by Toil and Trouble. Burroughs didn’t disappoint.

From the Publisher:

“Here’s a partial list of things I don’t believe in: God. The Devil. Heaven. Hell. Bigfoot. Ancient Aliens. Past lives. Life after death. Vampires. Zombies. Reiki. Homeopathy. Rolfing. Reflexology. Note that ‘witches’ and ‘witchcraft’ are absent from this list. The thing is, I wouldn’t believe in them, and I would privately ridicule any idiot who did, except for one thing: I am a witch.”

For as long as Augusten Burroughs could remember, he knew things he shouldn’t have known. He manifested things that shouldn’t have come to pass. And he told exactly no one about this, save one person: his mother. His mother reassured him that it was all perfectly normal, that he was descended from a long line of witches, going back to the days of the early American colonies. And that this family tree was filled with witches. It was a bond that he and his mother shared–until the day she left him in the care of her psychiatrist to be raised in his family (but that’s a whole other story). After that, Augusten was on his own. On his own to navigate the world of this tricky power; on his own to either use or misuse this gift.

From the hilarious to the terrifying, Toil & Trouble is a chronicle of one man’s journey to understand himself, to reconcile the powers he can wield with things with which he is helpless. There are very few things that are coincidences, as you will learn in Toil & Trouble. Ghosts are real, trees can want to kill you, beavers are the spawn of Satan, houses are alive, and in the end, love is the most powerful magic of all.

My Review:

In his newest memoir, Augusten Burroughs admits that he is a witch. Honestly, I think it’s equally likely that he is 100% telling the truth or he is completely messing with all of us. And you know what? He tells the story so well, it really doesn’t matter.

Ever since I read Running with Scissors, I’ve returned to Burroughs writing to enjoy his wacky mind, crazy upbringing and fresh perspective. He runs towards weird people that the rest of us avoid, embraces every part of his dysfunctional childhood and waves his freak flag proudly. He’s just so totally endearing.

I definitely believe that there are people out there who are much more affected by the spirit world and the stories Burroughs tells are intriguing, the tiniest bit spooky and of course, hilarious. I’m also a believer that the more colorful one’s personality is, the more crazy things happen to them. Which of course makes me think it’s even more possible its all true.

Augusten Burroughs is a master story-teller. If you are a fan, check this one out. You won’t be sorry. Special thanks to St. Martin’s Press for an advance e-galley in exchange for my honest review.

This one’s out October 1, 2019, just in time for the spookiest month of the year! Get your copy:


2 thoughts on “Toil & Trouble by Augusten Burroughs, 4 stars

Add yours

  1. He was my favorite author in my early twenties too! I stopped reading him at some point though, I think The Wolf at the Table was the first I didn’t read. But I remember loving so much the way you describe him: “He runs towards weird people that the rest of us avoid, embraces every part of his dysfunctional childhood and waves his freak flag proudly. He’s just so totally endearing.” That’s what I loved about him! I was really unsure about this one, because I did think it sounded like he was just messing with us, or running out of things in his life to use for material. But I’m glad that this was so well done and fun to read. Maybe will pick it up after all. Great review!


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