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Augusta, Gone: A True Story

Augusta, Gone: A True Story

3.8 9
by Martha Tod Dudman

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"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


"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.

Editorial Reviews

How does a parent deal with a rebellious adolescent? Is it better to clamp down or loosen up, set more ground rules or allow more flexibility? Those are the questions that faced Martha Tod Dudman, a single mother whose daughter, Augusta, became increasingly incommunicative and began to show signs of drug abuse around age 15. The more Dudman tried to reach out to her daughter, the more Augusta shrank back. Dudman now relates her distressing story in Augusta, Gone, a dark but hopeful memoir for parents and children to read, discuss, and learn from together
Martha Beck
The frankness of Augusta, Gone will help other parents in similar circumstances, if only by facilitating open discussion of problems they may be ashamed to admit. At one point, Dudman describes how she scoured ''parenting'' books for answers: ''They only talked about little problems. When your child begins to show different patterns -- changes in eating patterns, changes in sleeping patterns, depression, mood swings, schoolwork slipping -- choose one. . . . How about when the whole child collapses? How about when everything is wrong all the time and she is screaming at you and threatening you with a knife and you are crying and she is crying and it feels like the end of your life? Where's the book for that?''

This is the book for that.
New York Times Book Review

Janet Maslin
Ms. Dudman delivers a wrenching mother's-eye view of the kind of family crisis seen in Traffic, in MSNBC's recent tough documentary on heroin addiction and in countless households where teenagers find chemical means of amplifying the rebelliousness they already feel.
New York Times
Dudman, a divorced mother living in Maine, tried to give her two beloved children, Augusta and Jack, the perfect childhood. Like many mothers, she worried that she was working too much, that her kids were on their own too often. At the age of eleven, the formerly trustworthy Augusta started to change. Increasingly angry, she began staying in her room for long periods of time. Dudman's memoir recounts the author's struggles with her increasingly despondent daughter. Eventually Augusta began smoking pot and her rebellious behavior escalated to lying, stealing and skipping school. Dudman's life started falling apart; Not knowing what else to do, she sent Augusta to a wilderness camp and later a school for troubled kids. Dudman's fluid, simple prose makes this memoir, with its difficult subject matter, an easy, compelling read. While the reader wonders how Augusta would respond to her mother's book, there's no way of knowing her side of the story—not until Augusta decides to write her own book. Thanks to her mother's "tough love," this former wild child is in a position to do so.
—Ann Collette

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"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. Agent, Betsy Lerner. (Mar. 8) Forecast: Supported by a 10-city tour that will be crowned by an appearance on the Today Show, Dudman's memoir will strike a chord with readers who may not relate to the more unconventional family arrangement in San Francisco Chronicle columnist Adair Lara's Hold Me Close, Let Me Go. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
"Normal was gone," writes divorced boomer Dudman in her powerful account of her daughter Augusta's stormy adolescence. Drugs, smoking, truancy, lies, sex, stealing Augusta, 15, did it all in a household that was soft on rules and heavy on permissiveness and love. Finally, Dudman sent Augusta from their Maine home out to an Idaho school where rebellious teens can begin to get their lives in order. Yet even there, nothing works. Dudman is an exceptionally skilled writer, drawing readers into her emotional turmoil and transforming an ugly story into a bold, redemptive tale. When Augusta continues to run away, to defy even the strictest authorities in other programs, in other states, Dudman comes to realize she can't really "fix" anything in her child's life, though her daughter comes home at the end. "You don't get to give up on your kids," she writes. "We were all just thrashing through the woods in darkness." Like Dudman, Lara is a mother with a not-so-innocent past, and in raising her daughter Morgan, 13, there were also no rules, no discipline, no restraints. A San Francisco Chronicle columnist, Lara offers a less poignant story, peppered with more day-by-day "we did this/we did that" vignettes. Morgan's dad, Jim (Lara's ex), lives upstairs, and, like many children of divorced parents, Morgan is skilled at playing one parent against the other. Complicating the mix is Lara's father, who abandoned the family years ago and reappears to demand the family's attention. Finally, Lara says "no" to Morgan and demands that she attend school, quit using drugs, go to counseling, and consider an abortion if she wants to come home. These are stories of battles and love. Lara's is good; Dudman's is unforgettable. [Dudman was previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/00, and Lara in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/00.] Linda Beck, Indian Valley P.L., Telford, PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
People Magazine
"Dudman's searing honesty speaks eloquently to our most fragile selves, whether wounded child or frantic parent, in a stunner book,"
Ann Hood
"Augusta, Gone is a devastating, powerful, frightening, lovely book that explores the enormous and mysterious bond between mother and daughters."
The New York Times Book Review
"Dudman's searing honesty speaks eloquently to our most fragile selves, whether wounded child or frantic parent, in a stunner book,"
San Francisco Chronicle
“Dudman’s writing is brutally honest and painfully immediate.”
Atlanta Journal & Constitution
"Dudman's writing is clear and powerful...."
U.S.News & World Report
"...Painful close-up of a horrible time, this memoir is still a story of salvation."
"This manic, wrenching memoir is a staggeringly honest and compelling portrayal of the highs and hells of motherhood."
Book Magazine
"Dudman's fluid, simple prose makes this memoir, with its difficult subject matter, an easy, compelling read."
U.S. News & World Report
“Painful close-up of a horrible time, this memoir is still a story of salvation.”

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Simon & Schuster
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Chapter 1

It wasn't always like this. We used to have wonderful times. There were times when I felt as if I had won two prizes: my two children walking up the road with me. My girl. My boy. Living together in Maine.

There were times when our world seemed perfectly balanced. Later it's easy to remember, when you're mad at yourself and furious with how things came out, to remember only yelling in the kitchen on a winter night and feeling overwhelmed at the office. But I have to remember, too, the happy times when we were all tucked up in bed reading Mary Poppins on a winter evening. When we were at the beach with Cynthia and Bea and Sam in summer. When Augusta and I were looking at catalogues together on the green couch while Jack was building buildings in the dining room.

Those things are all true, too.


I raised the kids alone. Their dad and I divorced when they were little, split up when they were two and three and got divorced a year later. When people ask me why we got divorced I say I don't think you have to explain why people get divorced. I think you have to explain how people stay married. How people can stand each other day after day, year after year, rubbing against each other like two bad pennies. But actually I know the exact moment when I decided I had to get away from Ben.

We'd been in Boston at his parents' house for Christmas. We were driving home in the beat-up blue Ford my mother had given us when she got a new one. At least it ran, unlike the rest of the cars that Ben had parked in our driveway to work on when he got around to it. The old green SAAB that just needed some brake work. The red VW that suddenly one day just stopped working.

Of course, the driver's door of the Ford didn't open. You could either slide across from the passenger side or else crawl in through the driver's window. I was starting to mind things like that.

We'd been at his parents' house, which was not like my parents' house. Too many doilies on things. The TV on. Three cats. It was January. It was very cold. We were driving home with both kids in their car seats in the backseat. The car was a mess, full of our junk. Clothes. Blankets. The heat didn't work right so we had the kids bundled up. Juice boxes. Animal crackers. Chewed-on bagels. Christmas wrapping paper. Stuff.

We were coming over the bridge at Bucksport. Ben had to get to work. We were all tired, anxious to get home. He was driving too fast. There was a cop waiting at the Bucksport side and as we slid around the curve he flashed his lights.

"Oh great," Ben said, pulling over opposite the graveyard.

I didn't say anything.

"This is typical," he told me, rolling down his window, letting in the cold hard Bucksport air. "We weren't going any faster than anyone else. They always stop people like us."

That was the moment.

I wasn't people like us. Okies in a beat blue Ford. Full of junk and dirty-faced children. I wasn't like this. I'd grown up in Washington. I was meant for something. My children weren't people like us. If I could have, I would have taken both children, right then, one under each arm, out of that wreck of a car and marched down Route 1 tromp tromp tromp down the highway past the narrow houses up to that flat high place between Bucksport and Ellsworth where you can see so far.


It was a little more complicated than that, but eventually I did leave him. We both stayed in Maine and shared the raising of the children, but most of it fell to me.

I didn't know how I was going to manage. Pay the mortgage. Raise the children. Fix the house. Buy the shoes. And somehow create a life of my own where I would be the star I was meant to be. How all that? I took a job at my mother's radio stations. I worked part-time and then full-time and eventually took over the business. I bought another radio station and found myself going to radio conventions in places like New Orleans and Los Angeles. I always felt as if it were all happening by mistake -- the accounting course I took at night so I could read the P&L, the suits and certain shoes I started wearing, learning to use a computer. Suddenly I was worried about ratings and margins and money and negotiating contracts and hiring people and firing people. I was sitting in my office, sitting behind a desk, being a boss, being a businesswoman.

And all this time I was raising my children, coming home at night, changing into soft clothes. Augusta sitting on my bed at night. "I need a private time with you, Mommy." I was fixing supper, washing all the dishes. And sometimes it seemed as if I were doing a wonderful balancing act, balancing it all on the tip of my nose.

Looking back, there were times when I thought I was doing a wonderful job. Being a mother that read to my children, being a mother that talked really talked to my children, finding cool baby-sitters for them like the girl from the College of the Atlantic who practiced Zen and shaved her head and took them to the early-morning ceremony where she became an official Buddhist. Or my dear old friend Marie, who was cozy and sweet and baked them cookies and read them Narnia and held them in her lap and loved them. Sometimes I saw my kids on a weekend morning coming in from sledding with their bright bright cheeks and I thought: I am giving them a perfect childhood.

And the time when I took Augusta down to the boat to go out to Great Cranberry Island for a sleepover party and I watched her waiting with her backpack, sitting on a rock by the harbor with her smooth brown hair looking proud and a little worried. And I thought again: I am giving her the perfect childhood. Maine. No locks on the doors. No traffic jams. No vying.

I took them on hikes. I read to them all the time. I told them stories that went on and on. And every spring we went to the circus, each with a friend, all in my car. I left work early and we put on the radio loud and sang along with the oldies. It was early May and always the first warm day of the year, the sky that wonderful tremulous blue of early spring. I was certain my children were having a wonderful life.

It wasn't of course -- I was always worried. Worried about money. Worried about being alone forever. Worried about not being a good enough general manager at the radio stations, carrying the tottering pile of my family's fortune, the family business -- everything they had was invested in it, my mother told me -- on my own shaky incompetent shoulders. I was worried that I had lost hold of who I was, the person I'd defined myself as being -- living in Maine, writing stories, walking in the woods -- to become a Rotarian, businesswoman, firer of employees, wrecker of lives. I was worried I wasn't spending enough time with my children who were so great! though I went to every possible school event, drove them everywhere, went to every performance of every play, every game, everything.

I loved it all -- loved the job and resented it. Loved our house and could never keep it nice enough. Loved the children and plucked at them, trying to make them right. How did other people do it?

Oh, I suppose I was in some ways a terrible mother. I yelled. I got impatient. I got mad. I worried over stupid things. I scolded over things that didn't matter. But when I think over the whole long lumpy quilt of my life, the part that makes the most sense, the part that feels the most real and the most dear, is the part where I was cooking in the kitchen and Augusta was coloring at the table and Jack was working on his building. When the house was full of cinnamon and life.


But that's past now. And now we have the scraggly years again. Their scraggle this time. Their struggle. And I am exhausted by it. I feel impatient and deserted. And confused and tired and helpless. And when, after a particularly bitter confrontation, I call my useless log of a boyfriend to shout out my troubles he sighs his heavy sigh like a sofa collapsing and I grow even more impatient. I get so furious. I have to go. I have to grab up my jacket again. I have to storm out of the house. I have to march up the road past the forest past the houses which infuriate me with their lawns. I have to go to the road that turns and heads up Schoolhouse Ledge. I have to walk.


This is how it was and it was nothing like this. There were things that started to happen. But then you don't know. When your daughter is eleven, when your daughter starts to act different, you don't know if it's because her parents are divorced. You don't know if it's because her mother works too much, or because your daughter's too smart for her classes, or because she has maybe a learning disability you never caught, or because her teacher has a learning disability or isn't smart enough to teach your daughter. Or maybe it doesn't have anything to do with school at all. Maybe she is becoming a teenager and this is how they act. Maybe they are supposed to be quiet like this and stay up in their rooms.

And then something happens and you think: I think there's something wrong. I think maybe she's smoking pot. But you don't really believe it because she told you No Mommy I don't do that, that was somebody else. And these are the things you think: Well I smoked pot. But I wasn't only thirteen. I was seventeen when I smoked pot. And it was different then, wasn't it? Wasn't the pot different then? Wasn't it lighter colored? Wasn't it less somehow? But then you think: Don't kids do things earlier now? And anyway she said she didn't. And you're not sure and you don't want to not trust her.

I want to trust you, you tell her, looking into her face. I want to trust you when you tell me.

And they say to talk with your children, but she no longer talks to you, and it seems as if it just happened. One day it was just like that. True, she had stopped coming down for breakfast. Stayed up in her room, ran out the door late for school, missed the bus and had to have a ride. But you think, well, that's how they are, aren't they, teenagers? And you try to remember how you were, but you were different and the times were different and it was so long ago. And she's suddenly so angry at you, but then, another time, she's just the same. She's just your little girl. You sit with her and you talk about something, or you go shopping for school clothes and everything seems all right. And you forget how you stood in her room and how the center of your stomach felt so cold. When you found the cigarette. When you found the blue pipe. When you found the little bag she said was aspirin.

And there was that time after eighth-grade graduation when she and her best friend, Alexis, were going to sneak out, but they said they weren't even after you found the cellar door open. But they said they weren't and so you decided to believe them, like that other time when Julie's mother called and told you that Julie and your daughter had stolen some things out of the store downtown and you grounded her and she cried and promised Never never. And the time she was supposed to be spending the night at Daisy's but then you found out that her parents didn't know; the girls weren't there. And then there was something and then something else and then you were on a crazy train ride rumbling through a night landscape that you didn't recognize and everything was different and everything normal was gone.

All of a sudden it just happened.

It seems like all of a sudden it just happened.

So now, when I try to remember how it went, it's hard to remember. Augusta was a little girl. Jack was a little boy. I was working too much. There was always too much to do. We were sitting at a table. I was worried about something at work. I got mad about something. I brought my hands down hard on the kitchen table. Augusta cried. Maybe that was it. What made her change.

Whenever it got to be too much for me I would go out. I'd yank my coat off the hook and my mittens off the radiator and head out the door. Just get out and start walking. Up the road big firm steps as if I had somewhere to go. My kids were driving me nuts. This happened all the time now, ever since they started edging into adolescence. They were angry at me. They were scornful. My daughter was furious. My son was bored. I couldn't even remember how it had been anymore; our sweet little household. The candlelit dinners. The fires. The books. The stories and the special treats and the rituals of family I had tended. It had been so long since someone hadn't been mad or exhausted or sad.

Copyright © 2001 by Martha Tod Dudman

What People are Saying About This

Ann Hood
"Augusta, Gone is a devastating, powerful, frightening, lovely book that explores the enormous and mysterious bond between mother and daughters.

Meet the Author

Martha Tod Dudman is the author of Expecting to Fly and Augusta, Gone, which was adapted into an award-winning Lifetime Television movie. She lives in Maine.

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Augusta, Gone: A True Story 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Augusta comes closer to the truth than her narrator mother does in this book. "Mommy, they just do this for the parents," should be a clue that there is a bit more to WWASPS aka Youth Foundation than meets the eye. Things are not idyllic in the Mormon gulag. One kid committed suicide there when Augusta was at the Idaho school. There are some problems~ the cultish program for parents and kids concocted by one D.G. who had ties to a well-known cultish proram at one time, calling girls who had been raped "sluts", and other common practices of the organization. Augusta needed competent tx for her eating disorder and psych conditions. No teen "needs" the sort of torture that is documented on the web. Look up WWASPS survivors to find the truth that this book hints at. The writing itself is just not that good. Skip this book and do something else more worthy of your time instead. The tx is duplicious and can be deadly. I would have given negative stars had the option been given. Poor writing by a shill who has bought into the cesspool at the expense of one daughter.
bananakittenkitten More than 1 year ago
A story of love and hope. This book will parents who are going through a similar situation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Augusta Gone, is an intense book about a mothers true story where her daughter got into drugs and started staying out all night, dropping out of school, running away from home. I read this book for some research on our ethnography subject of recovered drug addicts. The book gave me a good understanding for what happens to a person on drugs coming from the outside view. This was a shocking but interesting thing, as I was almost completely oblivious to what happens to drug users. For people who need a good perspective change, I would suggest someone to read it however if they are looking for a cheerful book that is full of rainbows and flowers, this is not it. It is a true story and will make you sad but will also make you look at your own relationships and realize how much you have to be thankful for.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm still in highschool and I have a tough relationship with my mother and I read this book to try and get her vantage point on the situation. Martha and Augusta had a far more intense and out-of-control relationship with each other than the one I'm in, but I still connected with it quite a bit. Also, I now know that it could be a lot worse. One thing is that I could see the mother's fault even when she didnt see it. And I do think it was due to her that Augusta was so angry. I really want to hear Augusta's story from her own point of view. Definately a good read for mothers and daughters both.
Guest More than 1 year ago
AUGUSTA, GONE is an exceptional book that provides us with a crisp understanding of what life was like for a single mother trying to raise her children in an unknown world full of drugs, sex, and deceit. Through her struggle one sympathizes with her even though it is clear that somehow she provoked it when she tries to control everything in her life. . . A must read. . .
Guest More than 1 year ago
i havent read this book yet, but i hope to find it amazing!!!! i hope that it is historical fiction because i readin it for that certain book report that says find an historical fiction book!!! so wish me the best of luck!!! BI BI!!!