Synopsis from Amazon.co.uk
There is a passage early in Augusten Burroughs’s harrowing and highly entertaining memoir Running with Scissors that speaks volumes about the author. While going to the garbage dump with his father, young Augusten spots a chipped glass-top coffee table that he longs to bring home. “I knew I could hide the chip by fanning a display of magazines on the surface, like in a doctor’s office,” he writes, “And it certainly wouldn’t be dirty after I polished it with Windex for three hours.”
There were certainly numerous chips in the childhood Burroughs describes: an alcoholic father, an unstable mother who gives him up for adoption to her therapist and an adolescence spent as part of the therapist’s eccentric extended family, gobbling prescription medicines and fooling around with both an old electroshock machine and a paedophile who lives in a shed out back. But just as he dreamed of doing with that old table, Burroughs employs a vigorous program of decoration and fervent polishing to a life that many would have simply thrown in a landfill. Despite her abandonment, he never gives up on his increasingly unbalanced mother. And rather than despair about his lot, he glamorises it: planning a “beauty empire” and performing an a cappella version of “You Light Up My Life” at a local mental ward.
When Augusten’s parents divorce, his mother starts having another ‘mental episode’ during which he gets sent to live with his mother’s psychiatrist Dr Finch and his rather crazy family. This is the true story of those years, almost unbelievable with events most people couldn’t even imagine.
This book is so crazy, I could easily believe it’s a work of fiction, but the fact this actually happened to someone is mind blowing. The main characters were weirdly endearing, even though they were slightly mad, in particular I liked Natalie and Hope, although I pitied them too. I really feel sorry for Augusten, being abandoned by your mother can never be easy, but into a house full of mad people must make it 10 times worse. I would recommend this book, if only to realise how normal your own upbringing was!