When I first heard about the book The Long Journey Home: A Memoir by Margaret Robison I was instantly intrigued. Margaret Robison is the mother of Running With Scissors author, Augusten Burroughs. Augusten Burroughs is one of my favorite writers, so it was mainly out of curiosity that I wanted to read Robison’s memoir.
It turns out that Robison is much more than the mother of two gifted sons (her son John Elder has published a memoir as well). She is a talented writer in her own right. Her memoir starts off recounting her childhood in 1940s and 50s era Georgia. Using vivid imagery and passages that at times brought me to tears, Robison writes of herself as a young girl trying to come to terms with death, sexuality, and gender expectations. These early chapters in The Long Journey Home told through the innocent eyes of childhood are exceptional. Her childhood reads like the plot out of a wondrous Southern Gothic novel full of fascinating characters and various eccentricities of life in the South.
Robison then goes on to recount her relationship with her husband John. John was an alcoholic and quite abusive during their long marriage. It is when she begins trying to get out of the marriage that she seeks the help of a psychiatrist, Dr. Turcotte. Dr. Turcotte quickly inserts himself into the lives of both John and Margaret, and the results of his disastrous treatment of Margaret’s depression are terrifying and painful to read about. Margaret’s descriptions of her stays in various mental hospitals during her battle with depression are truly sad. Like other great writers, such as Sylvia Plath, that describe what it is like to live with a mental illness, Robison has written a book that should be read by others to gain insight and understanding into what it is like for those who have spent time in mental health facilities. In the book she details abuse and manipulation suffered at the hands of Dr. Turcotte, and the police investigation that she eventually participates in. Readers familiar with Running With Scissors will find Robison’s description of what happened with Dr. Turcotte fascinating as the old adage “there are two sides to every story” rings especially true here.
Later chapters in the book go on to detail her life after divorcing her husband and recount a number of events in her life including among other things love affairs, a severe stroke, the birth of her grandchild, and the feelings she experienced after Running With Scissors was published. Robison’s memoir brings to mind the sometimes subjective nature of storytelling. Reading about the events of her life through her eyes and the subsequent hurt she experienced when she read Augusten’s memoir was heartbreaking. Margaret Robison has written an amazing memoir, and I highly recommend it.
I have never amended a review before, and I think this speaks to the controversial nature of the book. I discussed it with my dad the other night when I handed over my copy of The Long Journey Home to him to read. We read all of Augusten Burroughs memoirs together a few years ago in rapid succession. We were both inspired by what he had overcome in his life to become the talented writer he is today. I found myself expressing frustrations about The Long Journey Home when I discussed the book with my dad. Frustrations that weren’t included in the original review.
I can’t quit thinking about this book (which probably means you should all go read it). When I initially reviewed it, I wrote the review in the middle of the night right after I finished the book. Now that I read the review in the “light of day” I find myself thinking that I glossed over a major problem that I had with the book. By Margaret Robison’s own admission, her son Chris (aka Augusten) had a relationship with a much older partner when he was 15 years old. After thinking about Augusten’s writing of this in Running With Scissors in contrast to what Robison says in her book, I want to make it clear that I find her allowing this to happen unacceptable. I don’t know what the age of consent was at the time, but 15 is too young, in my opinion, for a child to have a sexual relationship. I know that Margaret Robison’s reasoning was that she had a much older boyfriend at that age. This is no excuse. It’s up to parents to break the cycle of abuse that was perpetrated upon them (even if they didn’t see it as such). This is not to say that I don’t have sympathy for MS. Robison. I do, but I think she could have done much better by her children (especially Augusten). Like her, I have two sons, and I suffer from a mental illness, depression. I know that my problems are not as severe as hers, but I just can’t fathom allowing my child to be in an abusive relationship and to live with an abusive individual (the psychiatrist). I feel better now that I’ve gotten that off my chest. I still highly recommend reading The Long Journey Home. Clearly the controversial nature of the book and Margaret Robison’s considerable writing talent makes it an interesting read.
I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for allowing me to host the first stop on the tour for The Long Journey Home. Be sure and check out the other stops on the tour:
Wednesday, June 1st: Well Read Wife
Thursday, June 2nd: The Girl from the Ghetto
Monday, June 6th: Books Like Breathing
Tuesday, June 7th: Life in Review
Thursday, June 9th: Silver and Grace
Monday, June 13th: Reviews by Lola
Monday, June 20th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Friday, June 24th: Chaotic Compendiums
Monday, June 27th: The Book Lady’s Blog – guest post
Thursday, June 30th: Rundpinne
Thursday, July 7th: SMS Book Reviews
Friday, July 8th: Colloquium
Friday, July 15th: Thoughts of Joy
Make sure you don’t miss a thing! If you’re new to The Well-Read Wife, click here to subscribe. Be sure to follow me on Twitter and “like” me on Facebook. Also, add yourself to my Google Friend Connect in the box towards the top of my sidebar.