Your childhood, no matter how bad or crazy you think it was, will seem tame by comparison. Running with Scissors is one of those memoirs that makes all of us with “bad childhoods” feel a little more “normal”. Burroughs writes so honestly, so intimately, censoring nothing, that it makes the reader feel like you’ve been sitting inside his head while these events were being lived.
Burroughs has his family fall apart at an early age. His dad is clearly an alcoholic, and his mom starts going crazy. She starts seeing this really eccentric psychologist (as a therapist, not as a lover) and suddenly, Augusten finds himself spending more and more time with the therapist’s crazy family. By the time he turns twelve, his parents are divorced, his dad won’t return his phone calls, and his mother has arranged things so that her therapist has now legally adopted Augusten.
The book describes the absolute squaller that Augusten lived in with this family. He details all the insanity that surrounds him, from the therapist’s bizarre theories and methods, to the actual crazy people who lived there too.
Augusten is pretty much left to make his own decisions, from the age of twelve, to eighteen (when the book ends). Some of his choices include quitting school, trying drugs, and starting a sexual relationship with a much older man who was once also a patient of this eccentric therapist. I interpret that relationship as “troubled” at best, and “statutory rape” at worst.
There are plenty of other crazy experiences that I am leaving out of this review, so you can read them for yourself. One thing is clear, though. No one raised Augusten. He pretty much had to figure things out for himself, while living in this insane place.
Meanwhile, Augusten’s mother is going crazy. She gets worse and worse, and it’s not really clear for the longest time exactly what her problem is. The whole book is fascinating, and heartbreaking, and, in parts, hysterically funny. Burroughs is a fantastic writer. This is the second time I have read this book, and I enjoyed it just as much the second time around as I did the first. The shock factor holds up, even when you know what is coming.
I have not seen the movie that was made about this book, and so, cannot comment on how the two compare. I recommend that you read this book before moving on to his other memoirs, in order to get the most out of the whole story.