Book Review | Toil & Trouble

Book Review

I have been a fan of Augusten Burroughs since I was seventeen and read Running with Scissors. Including that one, I have read five of his memiors (Magical Thinking, Possible Side Effects, The Wolf at the Table, and You Better Not Cry, in case you were wondering), plus his novel, Sellevision. And I have really enjoyed all of them. So, obviously, I had to pick up his newest memoir, Toil & Trouble. And I think it just might be my favorite one.

(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)


(From Goodreads) “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.


Were you one of the kids who read Matilda and became convinced that you might have magical powers? Because I was. And this book felt like the adult version of that. And I loved it. If you’ve never read an Augusten Burroughs book, you are seriously missing out on some amazing writing that is probably one of the most convincing things I’ve ever read. Which, given the stories about his life, is kind of incredible. His life was kind of insane. And, reading any of his memoirs, you’ll probably be aware that it’s crazy. But he will also make you believe that it’s completely normal. Of course a tree can have murderous tendencies. Why wouldn’t it?

As I’m sitting here, after having finished this book, I’m realizing that I genuinely didn’t think these stories were crazy. Which is a testament to Burroughs’s writing. Because this book is about things that are decidedly NOT normal to most people, and the only thing that felt shocking or crazy to me were his eating habits. This book had me laughing out loud (which is why I probably should stop reading at work), googling various trees and antique jewelry, and also believing that I maybe could be a witch (I’m still not totally convinced I’m not just a bad one).

I been a fan of Augusten Burroughs for over a decade. I love his memoirs and always have so much fun reading them. This one was no exception. And I think it might be my new favorite.


★★★★☆ – I loved Toil & Trouble. I would highly recommend this book. Especially if you’re looking for some Halloween-appropriate nonfiction that is not scary.

Toil & Trouble will be available in bookstores starting October 1. You can preorder a copy on Amazon now.

To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose Toil & Trouble as one of your two free books.

This book was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.

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