Running with Scissors

‘Running with Scissors’ is a memoir by Augusten Burroughs about his crazy childhood and adolescence years with his dysfunctional family. His mother is a struggling writer who suffers from some form of mental illness (possibly bipolar or a personality disorder) and his father is a functional alcoholic who works as a university professor. Augusten’s older brother is John Elder Robison who wrote his own autobiography about growing up without a diagnosis. However, due to the age difference between the two, John is featured minimally as he had already moved out of home when Augusten started his memoirs. Augusten’s parents constantly bicker and fight to the point where he thought they would definitely kill one another.

In order to save their marriage, they saw a psychiatrist, Dr Finch, one who his mother had been seeing individually. However, his parents did end up getting divorced. Some years after that, he began living with Dr Finch and his own dysfunctional family. Apparently, Dr Finch opened up his home to his patients and that included a paedophile who became Augusten’s lover, a woman with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder and of course, Augusten. Dr Finch’s household is quite different from Augusten’s own volatile one where there still were rules and regulations. In Dr Finch’s house, once a person reached the age of 13, they were free to do as they pleased. Hence, if it meant dating an adult, it was fine. If a child didn’t want to go to school, that too was fine. If Dr Finch wanted to sleep around with other ‘wives’, that too was acceptable.

Running with Scissors is a witty look into what could be perceived as being a horrible chlidhood. Yet, Burroughs looks at it through dark humour and not self-pity as some memoirs do. He doesn’t look at himself as a victim but looks at his life through curious lenses. Just as an outsider would. However, at the same time, you can see just how messed up everyone is. He does seem to realise at one point that despite all the freedom in Dr Finch’s house, there can be something as too much freedom. It seems to reach a point where no one cares. He takes us through his trouble with school, his sexual escapades, understanding his sexual orientation, his relationship with the paedophile, his trysts with drugs and alcohol and of course, dealing with a parent with mental health problems.

He has changed the names of the characters in the book and I think that’s understandable given that they are all so messed up. It probably wouldn’t be fair to them especially if they have started families of their own to be known in such a manner. Dr Finch is a weird character and I was very surprised that he wasn’t monitored by the medical association as he was quite dodgy in terms of his practice. While Augusten did have his ups and downs, I think the main thing he seems to say is that he is still managing. Despite his messed up childhood, he can manage. He’s not perfect. But he is living a decent reasonable life.

If you do read it, be prepared to be shocked. I give this book a rating of 3.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

Friends in Small Places

…by Ruskin Bond

This book is a collection of stories from the author’s life. They are excerpts from his diary or recollections of dear ones or just a note of the most odd people he has met. Some of the characters are endearing like the Kotwal with the unusual case. Some are very touching like his accounts of his parents. Some are plain hilarious like the story of his old Hindi master. The book gives you a detailed insight of the author’s life , his childhood memories , his beliefs , and his overall experience in India as a struggling and a successful writer. It can be considered a testimony to all the people who touched his life .

Each one of the stories are amazing. Ruskin Bond has given flair to the lives of these common villagers , army men , families and even crazy queens and gardeners. Every story is engaging and makes you wonder as to how did Bond meet so many exotic people in the course of his life! But I think , it is his viewpoints and his depictions which make the everyday lives of these people truly interesting.

My favorite story is the one about the author’s uncle’s murder exploits. Bond’s uncle or Uncle Bill is a shady character. A gentleman who poisoned unwanted people with arsenic! His love affair and the planned murder of his lover’s husband is obvious but still enthralling to read. The story goes on describe how Uncle Bill ends up at the author’s place after Bond is successful as a writer. He plans to murder Bond and live off the book royalties comfortably. But Bond cleverly dodges these attempts and foils his uncle’s plan thus confirming that Uncle Bill had indeed committed the previous unproven murders!

All the stories are written from a first person perspective and ring with the finality of truth. The O’Henry type of twist to the stories make it all the more enjoyable. Fiction or real , the book is a treat to those looking for relaxed reading. Short stories appeal to me because there is no stress to actually finish the book and there is always curiosity about what the next story will be like!

The little collage of images on the cover itself is such a draw for me. The simplicity of the book is an ode to Ruskin Bond. Excellent book in my opinion. You must own a copy of this one!

My Rating – 5*

I am the Messenger

…by Markus Zusak.

Ed, a nineteen year old cab driver, narrates the story of his life after he inadvertently stops a bank robbery and attains a short lived celebrity status in his town. His life is pretty low key – a few friends to hang out and play cards with, a not-so-admirable job, a smelly dog for company, a non-existent love life (he’s hopelessly in love with one of his best friends, and she doesn’t reciprocate) – a very average life overall, with no purpose or determination to improve anything. This is until he accidentally prevents a bank robbery from happening…after which, his life takes an unexpected turn in that he starts receiving playing cards (Aces) delivered to him with series of instructions. The first card he receives has four addresses listed on it and Ed starts visiting those places one after the other. Somehow, it becomes clear to him that these people / families need help and he does what he needs to to bring about a positive change in their lives. Likewise, he receives three more cards, one after the other, with clues pointing to whomever he has to go help. The story goes on to explore how and what Ed does to do the job he’s chosen to accomplish.

Who sends those cards to Ed. Why that person chose Ed. What all Ed does to bring about the needed change in those people’s lives. How Ed reacts when the last card points to his four best friends. – All this and more is engrossing novel with a message.

The novel is gripping, to say the least. The story takes the reader through life of an ordinary person, Ed, and shows how a small gesture can make a big difference. I couldn’t put the book down once I started reading it – I couldn’t wait to know more, I wanted to see what happens next and after that. There were parts where I wanted to give a big hug to Ed for what he does; there were parts where I couldn’t help but smile; and then there were parts when I was dissatisfied because I felt they were not strong enough – this especially applies to the way things ended, it left me dissatisfied. All in all though, the positives definitely outdid the negatives and so, it was worth every minute I spent reading it.

Note though that I might be partial with my review here. After I read The Book Thief by this author (reviewed by Psych Babbler), I was so totally in love with his writing that I couldn’t wait to read his other works. Even before I got a grasp of this book’s plot, I knew I would like the novel for the writing, if not the storyline itself. And that is what happened – although I enjoyed the story for the most part, it’s the writing style that I appreciated more. Zusak, sir, you’ve got yourself a die hard fan in me.

Overall, I would highly recommend it – it’s a light and pleasant read for sure.

My rating: 4*.

*for the rating scale, click here.

Almost Single

Quick Data

Author: Advaita Kala

ISBN: 978-81-7223-655-7

Price: 195 INR

Excerpt from the the back of the book as it is:

‘My name is Aisha Bhatia; I am twenty-nine years old and single. I work as a Guest Relations Manager at the Grand Orchid Hotel. I dine at luxury hotels and stay in five-stars during my travels; I can name old and new wines with great élan, and can tell my cheeses apart. I tolerate my job, hate my boss, and bond big-time with my friends, while routinely suffering from umbilical cord whiplash. I don’t really care for my vital stat at the moment, and I don’t have a cute/funny nickname either. Hence this introduction: it stinks, but it sticks. In fact, sometimes I think there should be support groups like the AA out there for people like me….’

Ironically this book didn’t reach my heart…may be because this was a wrong pick for me since I don’t usually read chick lit..or may be the book is not that great..whatever that is my rating for this book is not more than 2

Though the story goes quiet straight without much frills and zig-zags…which is a plus point I guess…the author writes well only if she could attempt writing some other stuff may be !

Good Omens

…by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

Get ready – The Anti-Christ (well, actually, the Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Great Beast that is called Dragon, Prince of This World, Father of Lies, Spawn of Satan, and Lord of Darkness) is bornArmageddon is to beginApocalypse is about to happen.  This is a novel about all that. As Heaven and Hell prepare for the war that will bring about the end of the world, they hand over the task of having the Anti-Christ raised in earth among humans to Crowley, the demon and Aziraphale, the angel. The demon and the angel are left clueless as to where the real Anti-Christ is when they find out that the wrong baby was switched during birth. And there goes the story about…

How they go about finding the real Anti-Christ. Whether or not the Anti-Christ knows his true colors. The events that lead to the judgment day. What happens on that day – is there a war between the Heaven and the Hell? Does the Anti-Christ join hands with his troops? Does humanity come to an end – If so, who won – good (Heaven) or evil (Hell)? If not, then why, what stopped it from happening?

That’s the story in short. There are many other interesting characters and incidents in the novel that I won’t be able to do any justice to writing a summary…you have to read it to get the big picture. Now my thoughts…

I was very skeptical when I picked up this book because I wasn’t sure if it was something I would enjoy. But just after reading a few pages, I was immersed into it. The dark, twisted sense of humor in the writing kept me going. I smiled, I laughed, I smiled more, and I laughed even more. Page after page of unending humor is a treat, I tell you. The conversations between the demon and the angel, the demon’s cool, not-so-good (well, duh!), not-so-bad character, the friendship between the angel and the demon, the common interest they share – stopping the Apocalypse from happening because they find the human race amusing in their own ways, the characters of Anti-Christ (11 years old) and his friends – everything was put together so well in the novel.

Too many incidents and characters pop up here and there, but everything weaves back beautifully to the central theme of the story. The writing style is simple and amusing. It won’t fail to put a grin on your face. The story follows a swift pace, without many unwanted tangents.

The book was not only funny, but also philosophical at certain points, at least I felt so – how, the fact that the Anti-Christ got away from growing up under the influence of Good and Evil and was brought up just as a normal human child, molds his character; the demon, in one of his conversations, tells the angel that, at times, even Hell can’t manage to match the amount or torture humans bring upon their own kind; etc. brings some very interesting thoughts to ponder upon.

Overall, a highly recommended read…I’m pretty sure I will read it again someday.

Oh, did I mention that Crowley, the demon, is the new love of my life? The man (ooops, the demon) drives a Bentley, owns this awesome apartment in London, has this great sense of humor, isn’t afraid of taking risks…what can I say, I’ve fallen for him head over heels. Do let me know of your favorite character.

My rating: 5*.

*for the rating scale, click here.