Monday, December 2, 2019

Toil & Trouble by Augusten Borroughs Review

Title: Toil & Trouble
Author: Augusten Borroughs
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction/Autobiography
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                Okay, so I have a confession to make: Before now, I’ve never read any of Augusten Borroughs’s work until now. Of course, I’ve heard of him; by now, he’s a household name. Running with Scissors, anyone? But I’ve been curious about this witchy, magical memoir since before it came out. Toil and Trouble explains how Borroughs is a witch, and so have many of his relatives, including his own mother. But Kelesea, you say! Witches aren’t real! Ah, but we all know that myths and folklore, and that other dreaded m word, are often rooted in truth. And to discount everything he says, well. I can’t really ignore the proof. Funny, honest, and entertaining, I usually tend to steer away from anything that even slightly smacks of religion. But that isn’t to say that I don’t have an open mind; this book was unusual and informative, and I very much enjoyed it. Now I’m curious about the rest of the books in his body of work. Full of unusual wisdom and magic that is very real, I loved Toil and Trouble!

                Augusten Borroughs is a witch. And no, not the kind with warts, green skin, and flying monkeys, but a true witch, more aware of the natural world and the forces that move within it. A family gift passed down by his maternal grandparents, he has always been able to sense when something is wrong. Sort of like Lassie, but a lot vaguer. He does work spells, that’s for sure, but it’s definitely not over a bubbling cauldron of unusual ingredients. Turns out that real witchery is worked in tiny, miniscule doses. Borroughs uses this opportunity to get to know himself better, and to form a connection with his roots, his strained relationship with his mother notwithstanding. Desperate for answers and trying to combat crippling mental illness, particularly depression and anxiety. This memoir was honest, hilarious (I was snorting with laughter practically every other paragraph), and heartbreaking. I loved learning about Augusten, his husband and dogs, and his complicated family history.

                This is the first book I’ve ever read by this literary powerhouse, and I can promise you all that it won’t be my last. It was honest, funny, heartbreaking and surprising. Nowadays, people believe witches to be pure fiction, forgotten relics of an earlier, simpler time. But Augusten, digging deeper into his family history has always known that he was different, though in a way that he didn’t understand at first. Almost all of his relatives on his mother’s side of the family have different manifestations of the gift. One of my favorite parts of the book was exploring the author’s complicated relationship with his mother. But I also adored the way that he used magic in small, tiny ways that change the course of his life little by little: keeping trees and other plants alive, trying to convince his husband, Christopher, to move out of New York and into the countryside, to help stave off cancer. It’s clear that magic is in Borroughs’s blood as well as his family tree, and I really liked it. At times, I wish I’d read more of his biographical work; it would’ve given more context to what was happening. Nonetheless, this memoir was one of my favorite books of 2019, and I enjoyed it very much. The bottom line: Funny, honest, and raw down to the bone, I loved Toil and Trouble! Next on deck: There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon!

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