HUGE thank you to St. Martins Press for providing me with an Advanced Readers’ Edition copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: witchcraft, LGBTQ, spirituality, alcoholism, mental illness, mental health, illnesses, abuse, death.
Goodreads Rating: 5 Stars
“Witchcraft is not a religion. It’s the craftwork of a witch; it’s the thing witches do.”
Augusten Burroughs is a witch. He has the ability to predict things and find more than coincidences in his everyday life. It doesn’t change the way he goes about most things- he still argues over moving out of New York City with his husband, Christopher, and still suffers writers block. However, his magick ability tends to aid in situations where he is looking for certainty, and since he was young, he’s been able to draw from wherever- within, the universe, etc- to get an answer. It’s normal for him to be slightly not-normal.
So, Burroughs proceeds to recount his witchy background, and in doing so, relays many occurrences in which magick has appeared. To me, this was fascinating and interesting to learn about- how he grew up with the “Gift”, as his family called it. His mother taught him traditional witchcraft that her family had passed down over generations, and then as Burroughs grew up, he shared what knowledge he gained that aided and expanded his magickal abilities. In doing so, he also delved into the historical context of these rituals.
Keep in mind though that this novel is a memoir. It’s not strictly a study on witchcraft- it’s Burroughs’ life and witchcraft was just a piece of it. He recounts his childhood difficulties with his mother, and the struggles that his uncle had in accepting his “gift”. Burroughs also shares his struggle with anxiety, his past alcoholism and current sobriety, and even about his struggle to give up smoking and candy. The memoir is not completely lighthearted, though Burroughs’ humor and cleverness add buoyancy to the heavier subjects discussed. Yet much of this book is conversational, often describing events, people, and even animals with such fondness, you find yourself connecting to them just as much as Burroughs. I mean, I adore his dogs now, anyways- Eddie might take some getting used to in reality, though.
This is my first book by Burroughs, and though at times I felt his storytelling a little erratic, I absolutely loved how swept up I became in his tale. I devoured his book in two days. His revelations and how things interconnected from the beginning to the end were always beyond what I could have predicted or expected (I’m definitely not a witch here, lol). I feel like I not only learned a lot about the author, but I also learned a lot about witchcraft and the stigma surrounding it, which I feel the author dispelled. He’s just a guy with a husband and four dogs and a old house in Connecticut who can understand things before everyone else. Not a big deal (but kind of a big deal.)
Overall, I highly recommend Toil and Trouble, and I’m eager to read more from Burroughs.
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Publisher: St. Martins Press
TL/DR: Toil and Trouble: A Memoir by Augustus Burroughs is a memoir in which the author discusses family, witch history and legacies, and the supernatural gift he was born with.
Read it? YES. Not only is it the perfect time of year to read about witchcraft and the supernatural, but it’s thoughtful, honest, and humorous. It’s an enjoyable read.
Recommend it? Absolutely!
Buy it? Yes! If I didn’t already receive this gorgeous book from St. Martins Press, I’d be buying myself a copy.
If you liked this novel or review, check out these similar reads:
- Basic Witches by Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman
- The Ghost Clause by Howard Norman
- Moon Magic by Diane Ahlquist