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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father

1. What do you make of the brief but chilling scene that opens A Wolf at the Table? How does it affect your expectations for the story that follows? If you’ve read Burroughs’ other books, did the first pages of his new memoir shock or intrigue you? Why? How is this book a departure from his previous ones?

2. Why do you think Burroughs tells much of the memoir from the perspective of a little boy? What are the advantages and disadvantages to this approach?

3. Could the “Wolf” of the book’s title be read as a metaphor that extends beyond the father? For example, can memories become more real and terrifying than the incidents or people that inspire them?

4. Compare and contrast Burroughs’ portrait of his father with his portrayal of his mother in Running with Scissors.

5. In chapter two, how is Augusten’s destruction of the violin a manifestation of his rage at his father? Where else in the book is Augusten’s anger with his parents displaced onto something or someone else? Might Augusten’s hypochondria (page 170) or his later problem with drinking (chapter eighteen) be examples of this? Why?

6. Consider Burroughs’ website,, where he writes about and posts videos of his dogs Bentley and Cow. Does A Wolf at the Table predict or explain his intense relationships with animals?

7. On page 31, Burroughs writes that he “felt very close to his father examining his things” because “in a way, he was his things.” How can people become their “things”? What objects do you associate with those who were or are important to you in your own life?

8. How do you interpret the mother’s story in chapter seven about her marriage to Augusten’s father? What does her story reveal about her as well as her marriage? Does her story shed any light on the father’s behavior? If you’ve read Running with Scissors, does his portrayal of the mother in that book complement or conflict with your understanding of the parents’ marriage and Burroughs’ childhood in this book?

9. On page 107, Burroughs writes: “I realized that my father was two men --- one he presented to the outside world, and one, far darker, that was always there, behind the face everybody else saw.” Do you think Augusten’s father is a sociopath? Do you think his father is capable of murder? Why?

10. Do Augusten’s feelings about his father truly evolve and change by the close of the book?

A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father
by Augusten Burroughs

  • Publication Date: March 31, 2009
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Picador
  • ISBN-10: 0312428278
  • ISBN-13: 9780312428273