Running With Scissors
|Released||Reprint edition (June 2003)|
Running With Scissors is the memoir of Augusten Burroughs. It chronicles his life from age 9 to 17. During most of this time Augusten lives with the family of his mother's rather unorthodox psychiatrist.
At the book's beginning, young Augusten enjoys dressing in his mother’s clothes, listening to music and is fascinated by shiny things (mirrors, jewelry) and doctors. He lives with his Mother (Deirdre) and Father in rural Massachusetts. His mother is a narcissistic poet who insists that she will some day be famous. His father is a severe alcoholic and a Mathematics professor at the University of Massachusetts. The relationship is dysfunctional and violent.
Following his mother's first minor psychotic break she begins seeing Dr. Finch, a psychiatrist from Amherst. Before long Deirdre (Augusten's Mother) and Augusten’s father divorce. Augusten and his mother then move to Amherst.
Deirdre’s sessions with Dr. Finch are frequent and lengthy. Augusten befriends the receptionist in the office whose name is Hope. She is one of Dr. Finch’s many biological children.
Soon, Augusten and Deirdre make their first visit to the Finch’s house. Augusten has a preconceived notion that the homes of Doctors are all tasteful and luxurious. He is disappointed to find that the Finch residence, although large, is rundown and filthy. He meets two more of Dr. Finch’s daughters and the three of them play with an old electroshock therapy machine.
Augusten at first stays with the Finches under the guise of needing to be protected against his father. His mother stays elsewhere. Eventually, Dr. Finch becomes Augusten’s legal guardian. Augusten’s primary residence is at the Finch’s, staying with his mother only occasionally.
Augusten begins writing in his journal, at times up to four hours a day. Dr. Finch’s daughter Natalie is one year older than Augusten and becomes his best friend. She is a crude and fearless girl who at one point was placed under the legal guardianship of one of her father’s patients-a forty year old failed tennis player who was also her lover.
Similarly, Augusten becomes the lover of Neil Bookman. Neil was once the patient of Dr. Finch and eventually Dr. Finch adopted him. He is twenty years older than Augusten and coerces him into his first sexual experience. From there the tables turn. Neil becomes somewhat obsessed with Augusten, who is mildly verbally abusive to him. The two are involved romantically and sexually for several years until Neil disappears, and as of the end of the book is never heard from again.
While skipping school one day, Augusten walks in on his mother during a sexual act with another woman. The woman's name is Fern, and she is a minister’s wife. Deirdre is delusional about the relationship’s future, wondering why Fern's husband won't support it, and why Fern won't leave her family. When it ends she immediately takes up with Dorothy, another one of Dr. Finch’s patients. Dorothy is very tolerant of Deirdre’s psychotic breaks, and in fact has numerous issues of her own. She is not upset when Deirdre brings home a man from a mental health retreat, or when she spends three days in a hotel room with another woman.
Life with the Finches revolves around Dr. Finch. At first it seems like an unordinary, humorously mad-capped world, but as the story progresses we see that Dr. Finch has a number of nasty traits that are not humorous in the least. He is an open adulter, approves of and encourages sexual relationships between children and adults, and abuses his influence as a doctor in a number of ways-such as helping Augusten drop out of school before he is sixteen and being unscrupulous about prescribing medication.
Agnes, his wife, is shouldered with the responsibility of dealing with the needs and quirks of the numerous clients that come to live at the house. Dr. Finch makes many demands of her and treats her in a humiliating manner. Hope, who adores her father, is prone to minor psychological breaks, and makes most of her life’s decisions by opening the bible to a random page, plopping her finger down, and making an interpretation based on the word that her finger lands on. Natalie has endured sexual coercion from Dr. Finch’s patients since she was eleven years old. She is angry and boisterous, but seems much more sound than her mother or Hope (Dr. Finch has at least three other children that are only mentioned in passing). She is a steadfast friend to Augusten and encourages him on several occasions to become a writer.
After years of living under Dr. Finch’s roof Natalie and Augusten get an apartment together and begin to attend community college. Natalie excels in her classes, whereas Augusten drops out.
One week after his withdrawal from classes, Deirdre informs Augusten that Dr. Finch has been using medication to manipulate her, and that he once raped her. Natalie believes that his mother has had another breakdown. Dr. Finch wants Augusten’s support in an effort to have Deirdre hospitalized. Augusten believes his mother's claims, and when faced with choosing sides against his best friend, he runs away.
He stays in a motel for a few days then gets his own place. He is employed as a waiter at a steakhouse and begins working towards moving to New York City.
- The main character and writer of the memoir. He lives with the family of his mother's therapist, the Finches for his own safety [according to his mother and Dr. Finch]. He records the odd events of his life in his journal.
- Augusten’s mother. A published poet with hopes of someday being included in "The New Yorker." She is prone to psychotic breakdowns.
- Augusten's older brother. He is the "normal" one of the family, and undoubtedly the smartest. He has an odd obsession with all things mechanical.
- Deirdre’s therapist. Biological father of Natalie & Hope, legal guardian of Vicki, Neil, and eventually Augusten. He uses is position as a psychiatrist to wield a cult-like influence over his patients.
- Dr. Finch’s oldest, and most favorite daughter, who also doubles as his secretary. She is the first one to befriend Augusten when he comes into the house.
- Dr. Finch’s daughter who eventually becomes Augusten's best friend.
- A patient of Dr. Finch’s who later becomes his adopted son. After meeting Augusten, he becomes his lover at the age of 33 while Augusten is still only 13.
- Dr. Finch’s Wife who is treated more like a maid.
- Deirdre’s first lesbian lover. Deirdre and Fern leave each other after Fern refuses to leave her family to continue to be with her.
- Deirdre’s second lover. She takes time off of school to visit Dr. Finch, and meets Deirdre through him. She is a rich, African American woman who seems to only like Deirdre because of her love of extremes in life. She paints her nails depending on her mood.
Chapter 1: Something Isn’t Right
Nine year old Augusten admires his mother as she readies herself to give a formal reading of her poetry at a Northampton bookstore. While looking in the mirror she proclaims "Something isn’t right" and then asks Augusten to hand her a box of maxi-pads from which she fashions two shoulder pads.
Augusten adores his mother for her southern accent and for the fact that she is (in his eyes) a "star". She leaves when Augusten’ father arrives. Augusten looks forward to an evening of dressing up in his Mother’s clothes and giving a faux poetry reading in his room surrounded by numerous shiny objects (polished cans, mirrors glued in patterns on the closet door, shelves covered in tin foil) which are his prized possessions.
Augusten’s father is a math professor at U Mass. He is also a severe alcoholic with a skin condition and a dour personality. The only time he spends with his son are the infrequent trips they take to the garbage dump.
Deirdre, Augusten’s mother, writes confessional poetry. She recites it into an unplugged microphone and to friends over the telephone. When she asks Augusten his opinion on any of her poems, his stock reply is to say that it will surely be published in the New Yorker, which is her goal.
Augusten himself is fascinated by clothing, jewelry,stardom and doctors. He spends his time listening to Tony Orlando and Dawn albums, and dreaming of being an actor, a doctor, or better yet, playing a doctor on TV.
His parents’ situation is miserable and violent. In one described episode his drunken father attempts to strangle his mother, who pushes him away , causing him to cut his head severely enough to produce a small puddle of blood, but no real injury.
The result of the continued hostility is Dr. Finch, a family counselor who resembles Santa Claus. Augusten likes Dr. Finch and befriends the receptionist in his office, Hope, who turns out to be one of his many children.
Augusten’s parents divorce, and he moves with his mother to Amherst.
Chapter 3: The Masturbatorium
After the divorce, Deirdre (Augusten’s mother) begins having frequent and lengthy visits to Dr. Finch-some of which involve Augusten who inquires about a small room in the rear of the office. Dr. Finch then reveals that this is his "Masturbatorium" in which he relieves himself sexually between sessions, and sometimes during (excusing himself if the session is "particularly tedious").
Augusten and Deirdre are invited to see the room. Upon entering, they find Hope (Dr. Finch’s daughter/receptionist) napping on the couch. Dr. Finch is seemingly furious with his daughter but asks Deirdre to confront her about the invasion of his privacy.
Hope and Augusten talk in the lobby afterwards, about the Masturbatorium. Augusten says that it is disgusting, Hope has the opinion that it is a perfectly natural thing for her father to do/have. Augusten then asks her why she isn’t married, to which she replies that she has not yet found anyone as wonderful as her father.
Chapter 4 : Imagine My Shock
Augusten and his Mother, Deirdre, visit the home of Doctor Finch. Augusten, is very excited to visit the home of a doctor and looks forward to a glamorous, upscale house. Unfortunately the Finch residence is a pink, rundown affair that sticks out sorrowfully from its pristine white neighbors.
While Deirdre is in her session with Dr. Finch, Augusten, who is now 12, spends his time with Vickie and Natalie, Dr. Finch’s teenage daughters. The two girls are the unkempt opposite of Augusten, who tries desperately to keep his clothes free of the animal hair which is quite prevalent in the house.
The three decide to play with an old electroshock therapy machine. Fortunately, they do not plug the machine in. As their game begins, they are joined by Poo Bear, the 6 year old grandson of Dr. Finch who roams the house in the nude. The false shock treatment scares the child who then runs away. The three go after him only to find him defecating beneath a grand piano onto wall to wall carpeting. Natalie and Vickie cheer for the child, while Augusten is disgusted and goes to seek his mother.
When he finds her in the kitchen she tells him that his father may intend to kill them and that Dr. Finch is the only one who can save them. He is then informed that his mother is going to live in a motel while he, Augusten, will stay at the Finch residence. He is mortified.
Chapter 5: The Cleaning Lady
Augusten discovers he is not the only guest at the Finch’s house. In an upstairs room, lives a woman named Joranne who is a patient of Dr. Finch with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The woman keeps her room spotlessly clean (in stark contrast to the rest of the house) and only leaves the room to use the restroom. She has her own restroom which she also keeps shining. She also eats the caulk from around the sink . All of her meals are brought to her by Agnes, Dr. Finch’s wife.
Hope introduces Augusten to Joranne as she is having an episode over a dirty spoon. Hope tells him that she will soon be ready to leave the house and live on her own. The fact that Dr. Finch could fix such a person is impressive to Augusten, but he is also fascinated by Joranne and her disorder.
Deidre comes to pick up Augusten in a complete trance and barely acknowledges the fact that he is there.
Chapter 6: Just Add Water
In further spending time with the Finches, Augusten trades in his blazers and preened hair for faded jeans and natural curls. He replaces a jewelry obsession with smoking. He confides in Hope that he is gay and so she introduces him to her 33 year old adopted brother, Neil Bookman, who is also gay. They go on a walk together and Neil assures Augusten that the two can discuss anything, and that he will never take advantage of Augusten.
Neil leaves before Hope has a chance to talk to him to see if he can fill in for her at the office while she visits a friend. In order to answer the question she would have asked him, Hope performs a "Bible Dip"
"Bible dips" involve asking a question, turning to a random page in the bible and dropping one’s finger. The answer to the question, after some interpretation, can be found in the word or words that the finger lands on. All of the Finches perform this ritual, but Hope is particularly fond of it, and determines that her absence from the office will not be necessary.
Chapter 7: The Burning Bush
Augusten prefers going to the movies, shopping at Chess King, and writing in his journal to school. He has figured out how to more or less get away with skipping, and agrees with Dr. Finch’s assertion that at age 13 one should be able to make their own choices about life. While skipping school one day, Augusten walks in on his mother and another woman having sex. The other woman is Fern Stewart, a minister’s wife with a seemingly perfect all American family.
Following his intrusion, Augusten listens to his mother more or less ramble about the oppression she has suffered in her life. At his mother’s request, Augusten says that he supports his mother’s choice of lifestyle, and opportunistically borrows five dollars.
Chapter 8: Pure Projection
This chapter focuses on further describing the Finch family. It starts with an anecdote about a makeshift parade led by Dr. Finch and involving Augusten, a reluctant Deirdre, and most of the available Finch family. They cover themselves with balloons and pass out fliers while Dr. Finch plays a red kazoo in celebration of "World Father’s Day". Upon his stern request most of the women in the parade are wearing only two balloons-one over each breast. At one point during the parade Dr. Finch invites female spectators to "explore" his testicles.
The next glimpse into the life of the Finches, is an altercation between Natalie and Hope. According to Dr. Finch, anger is the crux of most mental illness, and so fighting is always encouraged in his household. The arguments usually involve name calling and accusations that stem from psychological nomenclature, most notably the Freudian stages of psycho sexual development (i.e. oral, anal, genital). The fights would often become physical . The one described to us in this chapter ends with Hope, who is nearly 30 at the time, being held down by Natalie until she submits.
When Agnes, Dr. Finch’s wife, expresses her anger, it is always directed at Dr. Finch, and nearly always due to the fact that he has three mistresses that he sees openly. Dr. Finch finds his wife’s anger hilarious, often inviting others to come join in the witnessing of her hysterics. Eventually, Agnes would also recognize the humor in the situation and join in the laughter.
Chapter 9: He Was Raised Without a Proper Diagnosis
Troy Burroughs is Augusten’s older brother. Essentially, he is an extremely intelligent person with a knack for all things mechanical and technological, but with poor social skills. He is unkempt in appearance and shares none of Augusten’ fashion sense. He has an abrupt manner, starting nearly every sentence with a grunt, and communicates largely with one syllable words.
At one point he is employed by KISS (yes, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehly and Peter Criss) as the designer of their guitars. He flies Augusten to New York where he meets the band, where Gene Simmons jokingly offers to take his pants off in front of Augusten.
Troy also has an obsession with trains. He will follow them in his car, often going off road to do so.
Later in life, we are told, Troy is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Chapter 10: The Joy of Sex (Preteen Edition)
Augusten describes his first sexual encounter, in which at age 13 he is coerced into performing oral sex on Neil, who is 33. Neil acts violently during the episode, while Augusten struggles for breath as his head is repeatedly forced against the headboard of the bed.
Afterwards, Neil tells Augusten that he performed the act in order to show Augusten what he can expect as a gay man. Augusten is resentful and confused. He feels that everything in his life has somehow changed, and experiences a spinning sensation while riding home in Neil’s car. Once home, he has an opportunity to confide in Hope, but chooses not to.
Chapter 11: School Daze
Dr. Finch organizes a fake suicide attempt for Augusten so that he can legally stop going to school. So, after taking several pills and washing them down with whisky (all provided by Dr. Finch) he goes to a mental ward for two weeks.
While in the hospital he reflects on his relationship with Neil Bookman. Following their rather violent first sexual encounter, Neil apologizes and the two become genuine lovers. Augusten confesses this fact to both his mother and to Dr. Finch. His mother shows support for the relationship and doesn’t seem phased by the fact that her 13 year old son has a 33 year old boyfriend. Dr. Finch is unconcerned about the age difference but wonders if Neil’s mental health makes him a good choice for Augusten.
Once out of the hospital, Deirdre informs Augusten that Dr. Finch will become his legal guardian. She explains that her journey to find herself, the relationship with Fern, and her poetry (insisting that she will be a very famous woman some day) make it hard for her to be his parent.
Chapter 12: The Seven and a Half Inch Disaster
Augusten and Natalie sit at the kitchen table pondering their lives. Natalie is depressed because she misses her lover, Terrance Maxwell. When Natalie was thirteen, Terrance was Forty One. Terrance was a semiprofessional tennis player who lamented the fact that he’d never gone pro, and who also mourned for his mother who burned to death when her cigarette ignited her easy chair while she was drunk. Allegedly, the two had been romantically involved. Additionally, he was a millionaire.
Terrance and Natalie met when he was receiving treatment from Dr. Finch. Terrance soon became Natalie’s lover and legal guardian. He was abusive verbally and physically to Natalie, who left him after three years, taking him to court and winning 75 thousand dollars, all of which went to Dr. Finch.
Augusten, in contrast to Natalie, is depressed because the ceiling is too low. So, the two embark on a project to knock the ceiling out, which they do. The reaction by the rest of the family is minimal, and the result of the ceiling being gone does nothing to change the depressing mood it had caused. So, the two then talk Dr. Finch into giving them 125 dollars to install a skylight. Instead of using the money for supplies, Natalie and Augusten remove a window from a pantry and rig it up as a skylight, leaving a seven and a half inch gap in the ceiling through which rain and snow fall from that day forward.
Chapter 13: Queen Helene Cholesterol
Kate is the most normal member of the Finch family. Augusten admires her because of her spotlessly clean apartment and for the fact that she is a cosmetologist. Augusten dreams of going to cosmetology school and studies Kate’s old text book constantly. The only thing he does more than this is write in his journal, which he does for nearly four hours a day.
One night while writing in his journal about cosmetology school, Neil Bookman pays Augusten a visit. Augusten is verbally abusive to Neil, but still the two have sex, using Queen Helene Cholesterol, a hair product, as lubricant. After both Neil and Augusten are finished having sex, Augusten becomes abusive again, referring to Neil as a dog, among other things. When Neil, who usually just sulks when insulted by Augusten, becomes angry, Augusten threatens to go the police with a statutory rape charge. This sends Neil away without further comment.
This chapter ends with a journal entry from Augusten describing the sexual encounter and the following fight with Neil.
Chapter 14: Toilet Bowl Readings
Dr. Finch believes that God is communicating to him through his bowel movements after having a particularly interesting one which results in a stool with a coil pointing upwards. He then has Hope remove the stool from the toilet and place it outside to dry. He begins doing this with all of his stools, interpreting varied bowel movements to mean numerous things (diarrhea means the IRS will mess up their records and not seize the house, the presence of corn means that Hope will marry a farmer). A bout of constipation marks the end of this communication with the divine.
Augusten continues to write passionately and frequently in his journal, and Natalie even suggests that he become a writer, or at least record some of the family’s odd episodes.
Chapter 15: Phlegmed Before A Live Audience
Natalie and Augusten spend much of their spare time singing. They either have patients of Dr. Finch play the piano, or they sing along with records. They decide to perform live and for some reason choose to do so in a Mental Ward. During an a capella version of "You Light Up My Life" a hostile patient spits a wad of phlegm large enough to hit both of them. Natalie, without hesitation, spits back.
Chapter 16: Here Kitty Kitty
Hope has a dream that her cat, Freud is consumed by a "white glob" and is convinced that the animal is dying. She will not let the animal out of her sight and will not take it to the vet either. In another dream she is informed that the cat needed to be "left in peace" to die. So, Hope sets up camp in the basement, sleeping next to a laundry basket under which the cat is trapped.
Dr. Finch performs a bible dip to find out if the situation is real, and comes to the conclusion that Hope is just under a lot of stress. The cat does die, possibly as a result of being trapped without food or water.
A week later, in the summer, Augusten finds Hope in the kitchen. She is dressed for winter and has a snow shovel. She claims that the cat called out to her and is convinced that she had buried the cat alive. Augusten then calls Dr. Finch. Neither Augusten or the reader finds out what he says to her, but after speaking to him she becomes calm and goes to her room for a nap.
Chapter 17: I Would Dye For You
Neil Criticizes Hope because of her lack of a romantic life. She in turn criticizes Neil for having a 14 year old boyfriend. Following the argument Neil professes his love for Augusten, something he does a bit too frequently for Augusten’s comfort.
The previous night he gave Augusten a 16 page letter full of declarations such as "nothing else matters as much as the fire behind your eyes and between your legs". Augusten feels there is something wrong with the relationship, but enjoys the attention. He also enjoys the sex-and Neil is all too willing to fill any desire that Augusten’s teenage experimentation comes up with.
One night, after having sex, Augusten decides to dye Neil’s hair. This is his first attempt at coloration and although it is supposed to be ash blond, it turns out greenish brown. At first Neil seems mildly upset. Augusten forcefully tells him to that he will get used to it. Neil then caves in and says that Augusten can do anything he wants to do to him.
Chapter 18: A Family Affair
Deirdre (Augusten’ mother) ends her affair with Fern and takes up with another of Dr. Finch’s patients. Dorothy is a young African American woman who paints her toenails in accordance with her mood and lives off the interest from her trust fund given to her by her father after he showed her his penis in a rowboat. She seems to be the odd Yang to Deirdre's Yin. She is unfazed by Deirdre's psychotic episodes and seems to crave more drama than even Deirdre can yield.
Dr. Finch has Deirdre hospitalized, and she returns with a man named Cesar Mendoza. Cesar is large, muscular and speaks with a Latin American accent. He was a patient at the retreat that Deirdre was committed to. He is married, with children and also wanted by the police. Dorothy is not upset by his presence, and he asks both of them to be his wives.
Augusten spends the night at his Mother’s apartment on the night she (and Cesar) return from the retreat, and Cesar attempts to have sex with him during his sleep, but leaves when an alarmed Augusten asks him to.
Augusten hears the sounds of moaning coming from the bedroom. Deirdre passes through the living room during the night and when Augusten asks her what she is doing, she informs him that Dorothy has never had sex with a man. Augusten hears what is obviously the deflowering of Dorothy.
The next day Dorothy and Deirdre tell Cesar to leave the apartment, sending him to live at Dr. Finch’s, where he begins to proposition Natalie. After agreeing to have sex with him for forty dollars, Natalie has her father kick him out of the house. He goes, but leaves all three women with yeast infections.
Chapter 19: Inquire Within
The Finch household is feeling the pressure of a ten year old tax bill. They could all be evicted if the IRS seizes the house. This causes Hope to develop an incredible case of dandruff. She spends her time doing nothing but reading Emily Dickinson and scratching her head .
One day Natalie tells Hope that she is disgusting. Hope ignores her, but Natalie continues until she gets a rise out of Hope. Following a brief argument, Natalie and Augusten leave to go to McDonalds.
While out, they decide to apply for jobs. They start with McDonalds, then smoke a joint, and then fill out numerous applications before taking a walk around the Smith College campus. While on their walk they decide to venture behind a waterfall. Afterwards they are completely soaked. They relish in the attention their odd appearance gives them as they walk back through town, dripping wet, stopping to visit several of the places at which they filled out applications.
Once back home Hope informs them that she has made soup from the carcass of her dead cat. This turns out to be a joke, which is greatly appreciated by Natalie. The chapter ends with a group hug.
Chapter 20: Life in the Great Outdoors
In preparing for a yard sale, the Finches decide that they like being outdoors with their furniture, so they essentially start living on their lawn. Watching TV, making milkshakes, and nearly everything but sleeping is done outside.
Augusten splits his time between the Finches and his Mother’s, traveling by bus. He reflects on how he can tell in advance if his mother is about to have a psychotic break. Recounting some of the odd behaviors he will witness, such as eating candle wax or covering her coffee table with cigarette ads clipped from magazines.
On a visit to Amherst, Augusten finds his mother in a bath with pink bubbles and soon finds out that she has cut herself on broken glass that Dorothy placed in her bath water. Dorothy is in the kitchen laughing hysterically while putting mustard on crackers. Soon, Deirdre leaves the bath and the two of them begin burning 50 dollar bills with a candle.
Augusten calls Hope, who comes to try to deal with the situation. She arrives, and Deirdre shows her a box filled with Locust husks which frightens her. Deirdre then begins throwing dishes at Augusten and calling him the devil and a Nazi. Hope calls the police, who take Deirdre away.
Augusten looks in the back yard and sees that Dorothy and his Mother have littered it with forks, knives and crystal stem ware.
Chapter 21: You Are Nothing But A Sex Object.
Dr. Finch, Hope, Dorothy, Neil and Augusten are all staying at a motel in Rhode Island trying to cure Deirdre from her latest psychotic break. In the midst of Deirdre’s eating ceiling plaster and scrawling the number 5 in lipstick all over the room, Neil expresses some concerns about the relationship between he and Augusten. He begins by writing "You are nothing but a sex object" on the back of a Nestle crunch wrapper. He then tells Augusten that he sometimes wants to hold him so tightly that he will squeeze the life out of him so that he will never disappear. He speaks of a power that Augusten has over him. Augusten gives little thought to Neil’s crisis and focuses on the situation with his mother.
Dr. Finch, who has the theory that Deirdre’s psychosis stems from her repressed love for him, takes Deirdre out for a sandwich. Augusten follows. A waitress named Winnie takes an interest in Deirdre and asks Augusten about her. She is leery of Dr. Finch’s attention.
That evening, Winnie visits and ousts Dr. Finch from the motel room by claiming to know every trucker in the motel and having some influence over them. The two stay in the room undisturbed for three days. When they emerge, Deirdre has had a makeover and seems better. She informs everyone that Winnie will take a leave of absence from work and accompany them back home.
Although Deirdre seems better, Augusten still senses her insanity.
Chapter 22: Thin Air
Neil knocks on Augusten’s bedroom door at two in the morning to tell him that he is going out to buy some film. A few hours later he still hasn’t returned, and Augusten gets an odd hunch that he has run away. He calls Amtrak and finds out the Neil purchased a ticket to New York City.
Hope and Augusten drive to Greenwich village and search for him to no avail. They return home where Augusten waits by the phone hoping Neil will call. He never does, nor does he return, leaving Augusten with yet more feelings of confusion.
Chapter 23: All Star Running Back
Augusten and Natalie watch Brenda, Natalie’s 11 year old niece dance. Natalie comments on what a free spirit Brenda is. This starts Augusten contemplating about how he feels trapped despite the fact that no one tells him what to do. He decides that a new boyfriend can provide him his needed structure.
In Amherst he meets a handsome clerk at a convenience store and is immediately smitten. He goes to his mother’s apartment and writes a note to the clerk stating that he would like to see him again, but that he isn’t looking for casual sex.
When he returns to the store, the boy has some friends with him. Augusten gives him the note and watches in horror from across the street as it is passed from one to another as they laugh at the note’s contents.
Augusten then feels further trapped as he can no longer visit the convenience store. He regrets taking the note to the store, and reflects on how not having someone who tells you what to do also means that you have no one to tell you what not to do.
Chapter 24: Pennies From Heaven
Agnes says that Natalie bears a striking resemblance to Lady Diana spencer while watching her on TV. Evidently these comparisons are somewhat frequent. Unfortunately, as Agnes soon points out, Natalie is quite a bit heavier and lacks Lady Di’s figure. After lambasting her mother with sarcasm about this comment, Natalie takes twenty dollars from her purse despite her mother’s objections.
After a moment of lamenting over her excess weight in front of a mirror, she and Augusten go to McDonalds and spend all but 40 cents. Natalie has the idea of visiting Father Kimmel, a Catholic priest who is her father’s "spiritual brother" in order to get money to go to the movies.
Augusten briefly remembers a time when he had discovered a Hustler magazine in Kimmel’s desk drawer on a previous visit.
With very little effort, they leave with twenty five dollars. Natalie says she thinks the priest was eyeing her breasts, but says it was worth it since they’d secured enough money to see "On Golden Pond".
Chapter 25: Oh, Christmas Tree
In May, the Finch’s still have not taken down their Christmas tree. Everyone expects Agnes to do it but she refuses. All members of the household visit the tree regularly, seeking candy canes or chocolate Santa heads.
Augusten recalls a Christmas when he was 10. His mother, in order to distract herself from her disappointing marital situation, went into a "manic holiday frenzy". Among other things, she chose an enormous tree for the house, almost as tall as the 17 foot ceiling.
When Augusten’s father makes a comment about the pine needles in the carpet, Deirdre snaps, toppling the enormous tree and performing with impressive strength as she manages to single handedly wrestle it through the hallway, out the door, and off the deck.
In the Finch household, Hope suggests that Natalie and Augusten remove the tree. Hope then drags it into Hope’s room. It then finds its way into the dining room, where it lays on its side.
Similar power struggles exist yearly in the Finch household with the carcass of the Thanksgiving turkey, which manages to end up under sinks or on top of the television before, if ever, it is disposed of.
Chapter 26: Running with Scissors
Natalie has gotten a job at McDonald’s. With her first paycheck she and Augusten go on a whale watching trip. Due to the fact that she has no other clean clothes, Natalie wears her uniform for the entire trip.
While eating at a lobster restaurant, the two discuss their futures. Both feel they are running after something ("running with scissors" adds Augusten)
Natalie endearingly and convincingly encourages Augusten to become a writer. She herself would like to be a psychologist and/or a singer.
Back at their hotel room, Natalie is convinced that the maid has stolen her earrings. After the manager takes the side of the maid, Natalie and Augusten sink a good portion of their room’s furniture into the hotel’s swimming pool and run away.
Chapter 27: You’re Gonna Make It After All
Natalie and Augusten, who are 18 and 17 get an apartment in South Hadley Massachusetts and begin attending Holyoke Community College (Augusten is inspired by Natalie and passes his GED).
Augusten enrolls in the premed program but spends most of his time writing things that are beyond, not specific to, and not acceptable as his assignments in English 101. He withdraws from school, and a week later receives a frantic phone call from his mother.
The two meet, and Deirdre, who seems unusually clear and sane to Augusten, tells him that Dr. Finch has been manipulating her with medication, and once raped her. She informs Augusten that she is severing all ties with the Finches.
When he returns to the apartment, Natalie has just received a phone call from Dr. Finch saying that Deirdre has gone off the deep end.
Augusten, rather than take sides against his best friend, leaves and stays in a Motel for a few days. He calls Natalie, who informs him that Dorothy is living with the Finches and that Dr. Finch wants his support in getting his mother committed to a hospital.
Augusten does not give his support, nor does he return to the apartment. He gets his own place and also a job waiting tables at a steak house.
Inspired by the Mary Tyler Moore show, he sets his sites on New York City.
The Epilogue gives brief descriptions of what happens to each of the characters. Dr. Finch eventually loses his license and dies of heart disease in 2000. Natalie earns degrees from Smith college in both psychology and voice, then later in public health. Deirdre suffers a stroke but still writes and occasionally publishes poetry, but is not in contact with Augusten. No one has heard from or knows the whereabouts of Neil Bookman.