"I'm scared and scarred but I’ve survived"
Tom Wilson was raised in the rough-and-tumble world of Hamilton—Steeltown— in the company of World War II vets, factory workers, fall-guy wrestlers and the deeply guarded secrets kept by his parents, Bunny and George. For decades Tom carved out a life for himself in shadows. He built an international music career and became a father, he battled demons and addiction, and he waited, hoping for the lies to cease and the truth to emerge. It would. And when it did, it would sweep up the St. Lawrence River to the Mohawk reserves of Quebec, on to the heights of the Manhattan skyline.
With a rare gift for storytelling and an astonishing story to tell, Tom writes with unflinching honesty and extraordinary compassion about his search for the truth. It's a story about scars, about the ones that hurt us, and the ones that make us who we are.
From Beautiful Scars:
Even as a kid my existence as the son of Bunny and George Wilson seemed far-fetched to me. When I went over it in my head, none of it added up. The other kids on East 36th Street in Hamilton used to tell me stories of their mothers being pregnant and their newborn siblings coming home from the hospital. Nobody ever talked about Bunny's and my return from the hospital. In my mind my birth was like the nativity, only with gnarly dogs and dirty snow and a chipped picket fence and old blind people with short tempers and dim lights, ashtrays full of Export Plain cigarette butts and bottles of rum.
Once, when I was about four, I asked Bunny, "How come I don't look anything like you and George? How come you are old and the other moms are young?"
"There are secrets I know about you that I’ll take to my grave," she responded. And that pretty well finished that. Bunny built up a wall to protect her secrets, and as a result I built a wall to protect myself.
TOM WILSON is a three-time Juno winning Canadian musician with multiple gold records. He has written for and recorded songs with Sarah McLachlan, City and Colour, Jason Isbell, Colin James, Lucinda Williams, Billy Ray Cyrus, Mavis Staples and The Rankin Family. His band Junkhouse has scored eleven top-ten hits, and his iconic, Americana-fuelled Blackie and the Rodeo Kings was widely publicized for its presence on George Bush's iPod. Tom's most recent incarnation, Lee Harvey Osmond, has received extensive praise and airplay throughout the United States, where he's been touring for the last two years as a result. His art has shown in galleries in New York City, Vancouver, Toronto and more recently, Ottawa. The author lives in Hamilton, Ontario.
Finalist for the 2018 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize
Finalist for the Hamilton Literary Awards
A CBC Best Book of 2017
"Beautiful Scars is a frank and fair, raw and loving look at what it means to grow up with the silver spoon as far from your mouth as it can get, a confession that celebrates the miseries and joys of working-class life, of musicianship, of chasing secrets, of fighting through to discover the person you didn't realize you were. This is a remarkable, generous, big-hearted book that will stick with me for a long time." —Guy Vanderhaeghe, author of The Englishman's Boy, The Last Crossing and A Good Man
"The book isn't just good. It's stunning. . . . The secrets around [Wilson's] life form a fundamentally Canadian story, rich in history and steeped in darkness. They also separate Beautiful Scars from the ranks of the typical rock memoir, and place it firmly on the shelf with the likes of Angela's Ashes and The Glass Castle—riveting accounts of family and secrets, poverty and peril, adversity and triumph." —Quill & Quire, starred review
"A helluva story. . . . Wilson has the ear of the poet and the eye of the painter. He manages to pick just the right anecdote to sum up a personal feeling, at the same time as capturing a broader cultural moment." —Hamilton Spectator
"This is not your typical recollection of a debauched life of sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. . . . The storytelling ability present in Wilson's songwriting translates to the written page with real ease. He has a direct cut-to-the-chase style, but is still capable of delivering poetic imagery. . . . This [is] an inspiring read." —Toronto Star
"Beautiful Scars is like Cataract City, only true, mixed with the kind of rock memoir you were scared to read. Wilson, musician and shockingly fine storyteller, is from Hamilton, Ontario. And not the bougie new Hamilton. That should tell you all you need to know." —The Title
"This incredible story is handled with grace, grit and a real feeling of a boy, then a man, trying to find their place in the world." —Vancouver Sun
"A compelling story, beautifully told. . . . Wilson writes with honesty and clarity." —Winnipeg Free Press
"A funny and poignant memoir about family, identity and coming to terms with unexpected truths." —Zoomer
"Tom Wilson's memoir goes deeper than your average rock 'n' roll book." —Calgary Herald
"[A] moving and beautifully written memoir." —CBC Books
"A dread of unknown origin cloaked and nearly choked Tom Wilson, but his voice continued to soar and what emerges here is an incredible tale of inclusion and devotion and love." —Ron MacLean
"Tom writes with charisma, humour and passion. There's a depth to his story—full of a trauma and mystery—that helps explain the arc of Tom's life and career. If you're already a fan, you'll love him even more after reading this." —Max Kerman, The Arkells
"Tom Wilson's memoir, like his music, keeps a measure of time that is so beautifully his own. This is a life, a story, born of secrets and lies, of dark humour and love. Its song will stay with you." —Ryan Knighton, author of Cockeyed
"Wilson's memoir is much more than yet another retelling of the sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll story that many other musicians before him have told. All of that is in the book . . . but beneath and behind this, always there lurks Wilson's search for truth and his place in the world. . . . [Beautiful Scars] is more than a book. It is a precious gift, a legacy of insight and truth from a father who finally knows who he is and where he belongs." —Hamilton Review of Books