Augusten Burroughs has easily become one of my favorite authors, coming in at number 2 on my top ten favorite authors list. (Sorry Mr. Burroughs, you would be number one had I never read the works of Jane Austen) His self-depreciating writing style makes you laugh and cringe at the same time; laugh with the stories of his odd childhood and cringe at how horrible some parts of his alcoholic and childhood days were. He is unafraid of telling stories about his abusive/alcoholic father, his crazy (literally!) mother, his brother who was diagnosed with Aspergers, and his own life as a former alcoholic. His writing is honest, witty, and courageous as he pours his heart and soul into his words.
You Better Not Cryis filled with stories that range from Augusten’s Christmases from childhood to adulthood and include everything from him eating the face off a styrofoam santa, a drunken Christmas as a bum, losing the love of his life, and many more. In reading the novel you realize that each Christmas is worse than the last one, yet true to the Christmas spirit there is a small glimmer of hope and happiness in each story.
My favorite of the stories has to be the Christmas when Augusten was alone in NYC and got so drunk that he woke up sleeping outside of a theater with a bum on each side of him. He apparently decided that he wanted to know what it was like to be a bum: buying the local bums sandwiches, giving them money, and just “living” with them across the street from his apartment. Upon waking from his drunken stupor he comes to find out that one of the bums, Shirley, used to be a singer but lost it all to alcohol addiction. After a long conversation, Augusten realizes what his addiction is doing to him and is scared of where his life is headed. Shirley tells him that he the night before, he told her his life story and how he had some much he wanted to write about. She implores him to begin writing to get his life back in order.
“She continued, ‘And if I could, I would ask that you write. You kept saying last night that you had ‘whole worlds’ inside of you that you needed to get out. Well, get them out, my dear. Focus on this. On something positive for yourself. And for others. I would ask you to set those worlds free.'”
I guess we can all thank Shirley for telling Augusten this. The literary world truly is a better place for having him in it. But I digress; as I stated earlier the stories each have a small glimmer of hope in them, and in this one it’s the fact that he is scared straight. He is convinced that he does not want to end up on the street as a bum and is finally scared that he could. (If you want to read more about his alcoholic days and his struggle with rehabilitating his life check out Dry)
This book embodies what the Christmas spirit is about. No matter what is going on around you or how bad your actual holiday is, there is always hope. This is Augusten’s mantra and it rings true for all his books.
If you are an Augusten fan then this is an absolute must read for you. For those who haven’t read him, it’s a great place to start. Of all his books, besides Dry, this has the best message. I heartily encourage all to read this book.
5 out of 5 Stars