Cover Image: The Wild Boy of Waubamik

The Wild Boy of Waubamik

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Member Reviews

Although I don’t have children I still felt immense sadness that a child who deserves to be loved and protected had to endure a childhood like the author was subjected to.  Amazingly he was able to marry, have a family and become successful in his work 
I was really touched at the section where he described looking down at his little girl and telling her she would always be safe.  It is beyond my comprehension to understand how this can and continues to happen. .
A true story which sadly needs to be told and full marks to the author..
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a free digital copy of the book in return for an honest review.
Note victims of abuse may find parts upsetting.
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4 1/2 ⭐️s, for this very well written memoir from Canadian writer and film critic, Thom Ernst. I have a problem with many publisher blurbs for books that are not accurate; I get that they need to entice but many just mislead. The blurb for this one doesn’t as much mislead as doesn’t give the reader the right information. The story of Thom’s adoption story is explained later in the book and isn’t the main reason for the memoir. The blurb alludes to an abusive relationship. Make no mistake, this is violent child sexual abuse and while never graphic is nevertheless very hard to read. That being said, this is a book about making it through, redemption of sorts, and is very well written.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.
Easily 5 stars from me for this book. I hadn't heard of Thom Ernst before so I knew nothing going into this book but the summary. He is such a good writer. He lays out his story so well that the storyline flowed smoothly and it was hard to put the book down. Highly recommend!
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As heartbreaking as it is uplifting this book had me feeling all the feels. A story that is true ally true for many young people every day, I found myself compelled to keep reading. Thank you Thom for sharing your brutally honest account of betray from the must trusted person. This will stay with me for a long time. 

TW; sexual abuse.
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Many thanks to both Dundurn Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review an early copy of The Wild Boy of Waubamik: A Memoir.

This is the story of a system that failed a young boy, and an adoptive mother who apparently looked the other way.  Ultimately, The Wild Boy of Waubamik is a story of triumph, as we read of the adopted boy growing up to be a successful film critic and broadcaster.

I found The Wild Boy to be a harrowing tale that made me feel incredibly angry.  Honestly, I hope there is a special hell for anyone who would sexually and/or physically abuse a child.  I hope that every adult who suspects something is possibly amiss with a child will take the time to ask questions and really listen to the answers.   

That Mr. Ernst became a successful adult, with a wife and daughter he adores, is nothing short of miraculous.
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Thom Ernest’s story is, unfortunately, a story that far too many children live day to day.   Thom is adopted by a mother and father who have the typical home in the typical neighborhood and all is well, for awhile.   Thom’s mother spends some time in the hospital and his father suddenly shows more  interest in Thom.  Even though Thom is too old for sitting on dad’s lap, dad wants “lap time” and lap time turns to tickles and tickles turn  to secrets.   Other than a beating, the abuses Thom suffered are not described in graphic detail and I appreciate that.  The confusion and fear is very well written into the pages.   One gains some understanding of confusion Thom, and all children who have been sexually abused by the person who they should feel safest with, experience.   One gains understanding of how the perpetrator messes with the child’s mind and makes the child-who is blameless- feel responsible for the abuse.    I think back to my own childhood and am, once again, so very grateful to have had a safe family.   Thank you, Thom Ernst, for telling your story in the way that you did.   #TheWildBoyOfWaubamik #netgalley
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Thom Ernst is well known to Canadian movie fans as the longtime host, interviewer, and producer of "Saturday Night at the Movies," though his work has been seen far and wide and he has written for the Toronto Star, Playback Magazine, and The National Post. Ernst is a member of the Toronto Film Critics Association and on this week when I had the chance to check out his first book, "The Wild Boy of Waubamik: A Memoir," I'd imagine he's finding himself immersed in film festival obligations even as he prepares for his book's release in early 2023.

While one might expect that Ernst's book would journey through his life as a film journalist, Ernst has instead written a remarkable memoir chronicling his own growing up with an abusive adoptive father in rural Ontario. "The Wild Boy of Waubamik" is simultaneously a harrowing read and an exhilarating one. It's the kind of book that breaks your heart, yet leaves you in awe of the quiet resilience of a young man whose entire childhood was practically defined by abuse and the failure of nearly everyone and everything around him that should have provided protection to do so.

As both a film journalist and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, who also happens to have written a book chronicling my own weird and abusive childhood, I found myself captivated by Ernst's use of language, mastery of structure, and his willingness to tell his story with a strong sense of naturalism yet almost entirely devoid of histrionics.

This story doesn't need histrionics.

You might expect, as well, that Ernst might simply be writing a sort of self-celebratory memoir for not only surviving but actually thriving through these life experiences.

Again, however, Ernst focuses nearly all his energy in "The Wild Boy of Waubamik" on telling his story in a manner that is both surprisingly straightforward that reveals powerful insights and truths about the journey of growing up with abuse. While Ernst at least modestly owns his successes, one can't help but think tha "The Wild Boy of Waubamik" is an exorcism of sorts that courageously pulls back the veil on aspects of the the abuse journey that are seldom captured in books by survivors and especially the relatively small sample of those written by men.

Ernst captures not only the "facts" around his life experiences, but he manages to dig deeper and reveal underlying truths. So vivid is Ernst's storytelling, you can completely visualize how his abuse began, how hit was perpetuated by his father, how the cyclical nature of abuse can and often does lead to one not stopping it even when physically able, coping skills one uses during abuse, and the shame spiral that allows it to be kept a secret. There's much more.

These underlying truths are what I personally found most devastating. This is likely because I'm a survivor myself whose spoken abundantly on the topic and I'm used to getting "the facts." Ernst digs deeper here, a likely years-long journey, and in the process creates story after story that will resonate with those who have experienced childhood abuse. While our lives and abuse were most certainly different, I resonated in both comfortable and uncomfortable ways with "The Wild Boy of Waubamik."

Once you've read the book, you'll be in awe of the courage it took to write the book. It is clear by book's end that Ernst passionately committed himself to breaking cycles as he grew into adulthood, entered relationships, eventually married, and became a father. There are sections in "The Wild Boy of Waubamik" in which Ernst communicates with his daughter that, quite simply, left me sobbing with awe and hope.

As a longtime writer, you can tell that Ernst went to great effort to tell his story truthfully without traumatizing others along the way. While there's often a sense of melancholy here, there's also light that creeps in including that created by Ernst himself. The language used is descriptive without being particularly graphic (a skill I, sadly, have not quite mastered as a writer), and Ernst masterfully portrays how the abuse he's experiencing connects to the world that he's living in.

I will confess that I am in some ways still reflecting upon my evenly paced reading of "The Wild Boy of Waubamik," a book that somehow manages to radiate love while peeling away layer after layer of the kind of childhood we hope no one ever experiences.

With honesty, tenderness, insight, and even a little humor, Thom Ernst has written what will most certainly be considered one of 2023's most remarkable memoirs and in the process has reminded us that even in our darkest moments that we can survive, thrive, and pledge to become the people that we needed in our most vulnerable times.
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