Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs

Susan TW

I knew about his memoir "Running With Scissors" but was directed into this book by its mention in an article on a local couple who were featured in the New York Times, in an article on couple's with Asperger's syndrome. Burroughs' father, apparently, has this, and so his name was brought up.

I took a prelimary peek at my husband's copy and was hooked! It's always a treat to have an author describe places you know well (many of his stories take place in or around Amherst and Northampton, Mass.). Then, his style reminded me of a more mellow Hunter Thompson; funny, irreverent and goofily accurate in depicting his own and other people's foibles.
It's refreshing to see the stock characters of hippies, Earth mothers, activists and divorced Baby Boomers, usually pigeonholed as "Massachusetts liberals" as if that's a bad thing, yet viewed by Burroughs as people first and political entities later, much later, if at all. To him, the quirks that keep upending his young life are the things that matter, not their clothing, vegetarianism, sexual orientation or liberal politics.

He does stray to other parts of the country, visiting his southern grandparents as "The only born Yankee" in his family. His maternal grandmother, all flounce and feather and excess, is like Blanche DuBois on a champagne high. She could move into "The Garden of Good and Evil" with the other eccentrics and feel right at home.
No author I have read (except HST) could capitalize this hilariously on the nightmare of taking a vacation and encountering a B&B filled with dolls, only to break a tooth on clam chowder.
Some of the stories a not as engaging as others, but overall, it's a hoot. I don't think that anyone could accurately portray "the Happy Valley" (a physical place and state of mind somewhere between the Holyoke Range and Brattleboro, VT) as accurately, lovingly and sincerely as Burroughs does.

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