Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

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Running with Scissors by Augusten BurroughsRunning with Scissors: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs

Stars: ****
Picador (2003)
320 pages

Summary: Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. So at the age of twelve, Burroughs found himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor’s bizarre family, and befriending a pedophile who resided in the backyard shed. The story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, and the Christmas tree stayed up all year round, where Valium was consumed like candy, and if things got dull an electroshock- therapy machine could provide entertainment. The funny, harrowing and bestselling account of an ordinary boy’s survival under the most extraordinary circumstances.

First of all I want to point out that the last sentence above should not read funny and harrowing but shocking and deeply disturbing. I also want to warn anyone who is thinking of reading this book that the book contains stories of abuse, abandonment and descriptions of homosexual sexual acts. If reading any of these might upset you, you might want to skip this book.

It’s hard to believe this is a memoir and not a work of fiction once you hear all the crazy things that happened to Augusten during his teen years. This family takes dysfunction to a whole new level. I was flabbergasted that all this happened without someone stopping it and taking Augusten and the other children out of the situation. I found the book deeply disturbing.

While I don’t doubt that the stories are true, I did find it a little weird that the book was written as if someone recorded everything that was said word for word and the author transcribed it. However the author did keep lots of journals during this time so I’m guessing he took those and his memories and wrote the dialogue as close to what it was as possible. The result is that the book reads as if written from the teenage Augusten’s point of view as opposed to an adult Augusten remembering.

At the end of the book is a short description of what happened to the key players after the book and a preview of his next book follows which allows you to see a little bit what happened to him.

As a mother of 5, I still cannot fathom how all these weird and disturbing things happened. How so many adults agreed with the absurd beliefs and no one did anything to help. I realize part of it is because it took place back when people used record players and didn’t fully understand the dangers of drugs, cigarettes and alcohol but still….

I gave the book 4 stars because it was written well and was engaging. I couldn’t put it down and finished it quickly. But it was disturbing and upsetting to read and I could have lived without reading it so that’s why it’s not 5 stars.

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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.