The early chapters of Townie, a new memoir from novelist Andre Dubus III, track the slow erosion of Dubus' innocence during his childhood in the dissolute industrial town of Haverhill, Massachusetts. After failing to protect his little brother during a fight—and hearing his mother called a whore in her own home—Dubus decides that instead of running from brutality, he's going to fight it. With relentless training (and whole lot of tuna and hard-boiled eggs), Dubus molds his body and his mind into something capable of such a battle. The book's insight is both poetic and pointed: His violent tendencies, for example, rooted as they are in a childhood defined by physical and financial insecurity, come from the impulse to "turn a wound into a wounding." Dubus learns two lessons in Townie, both equally vital to his survival: He learns how to fight, and he learns how to stop fighting.