RUNNING WITH SCISSORS by Augusten Burroughs

Reviewed by Barbara D. Spelman, Under the Tree Book Club

(December 5, 2003) Running with Scissors is a memoir written by Augusten Burroughs. Available in paperback, it is not a great piece of literature but at just over 300 pages, it is a quick read and inspires substantial discussion.

The author discusses his youth as an only child growing up in western Massachusetts near the University of Massachusetts and Smith College. During his teens, his mother experiences a mental breakdown and allows her psychiatrist to raise him along with his own extended family. At the same time, he has to deal with his own emerging sexual identity, amidst a household of young people without any real adult supervision.

It was the constant description of family dysfunction and disregard of housekeeping that made one member say she felt dirty reading these episodes. The group concluded that we never really know what goes on in another family. Also, growing up in the '60's and '70's, we could each remember a family that was just a little odd, whose free thinking was maybe extreme, yet initially intriguing. The author remembered holidays that went far beyond anyone's imagination -- Christmas trees left up for months, Thanksgiving turkey carcasses that were never cleaned up, etc.

While everyone in our book club finished the book, only one reader could say she enjoyed it. There is dark humor but the pain of the author's upbringing is difficult to read about. However, it made us feel a little better about our individual housekeeping.

While I can not give this book an unequivocal recommendation, there was certainly plenty of material for discussion.


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