"I'm not telling you where I am. Don't try to find me."
Remember Go Ask Alice? Augusta, Gone is the memoir Alice's mother never wrote. A single parent, Martha Tod Dudman is sure she is giving her two children the perfect life, sheltering them from the wild tumult of her own youth. But when Augusta turns fifteen, things start to happen: first the cigarette, then the blue pipe and the little bag Augusta says is aspirin. Just talking to her is like sticking your hand in the garbage disposal. Martha doesn't know if she's confronting adolescent behavior, craziness, her own failures as a parent -- or all three.
Augusta, Gone is the story of a girl who is doing everything to hurt herself and a mother who would try anything to save her. It is a sorrowful tale, but not a tragic one. Though the book charts a harrowing course through the troubled waters of adolescence, hope -- that mother and daughter will be reunited and will learn to love one another again -- steers them toward a shore of forgiveness and redemption.
Written with darkly seductive grace, Augusta, Gone conjures the dangerous thrill of being drawn into the heart of a whirling vortex. This daring book will be admired for its lyricism, applauded for its courage, and remembered for its power. It demands to be read from start to finish, in one breathless sitting.
"It's like sticking my hand into the garbage disposal," writes Dudman in this poetic, painfully frank memoir about being a mom to a teenage daughter who lies, runs away and uses drugs. Her story of Augusta's descent into teen hell, and her own attempts to keep her safe, will be welcomed by parents unnerved by the current media focus on risky teen behavior and the sudden deluge of books on the topic, including Adair Lara's similar mother-daughter tale, Hold Me Close, Let Me Go (Forecasts, Dec. 11, 2000), and therapist Ron Taffel and Melinda Blau's The Second Family (see review above). Like Lara, Dudman refuses to give up on her daughter despite tears that "jump out of my face like gravel" and her daughter's stealing from her, screaming at her and lying. In her attempt to describe everything that happened, Dudman acknowledges "this is how it was and it was nothing like this," as she captures the desperation that led her to call the cops on her daughter, and then with her ex-husband to send Augusta to a wilderness camp in Idaho--where Augusta attempted to kill herself--and to a clean-teen school in Oregon. Through it all, Dudman kept working at a high-powered job, cared for her teenage son, Jack, 16 months younger than Augusta, and walked to maintain her own sanity. Dudman, who was also wild when she was young, has no idea looking back how either she or her daughter found their way home, but her story proves that even the most difficult childhoods may end safely.