Augusta, Gone: A True Story

Augusta, Gone: A True Story

by Martha Tod Dudman


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The story of a girl who is doing everything to hurt herself and a mother who would try anything to try to save her.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060014155
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/02/2002
Series: Harper Perennial
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 659,527
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.57(d)

About the Author

Martha Tod Dudman served as President and General manager of Dudman Communications, a group of radio stations, from 1990 to 1999. Now a professional fundraiser, she lives in Northeast Harbor, Maine, with her son and daughter.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

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...

Augusta, Gone. Copyright © by Martha Tod Dudman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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.

Reading Group Guide


"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 her daughter Augusta turns 15, 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. The story of a girl who is doing everything to hurt herself and a mother who would try anything to save her, Augusta, Gone is a sorrowful tale, but not a tragic one.

Discussion Questions
  • Martha Tod Dudman knew her teenage daughter, Augusta, was in serious trouble long before she accepted it. Like many parents, Dudman did not want to confront her daughter's out-of-control behavior -- the smoking, the drugs, the bulimia, the disappearing for days at a time. What role does denial serve a parent? Can you be a good parent and be in denial about your child? Was the mother in this story a good parent? What about the father? Do all parents deny aspects of their children's personality or lifestyle?

  • People often argue about nature versus nurture in human development, especially when it comes to parent-child. Was Augusta destined for a rough adolescence because of her personality or was her mother and father's parenting to blame? Is Augusta's wildness geneticpayback for Dudman's own rebellious youth? What could have been done differently to avoid the drastic measures that were eventually taken with Augusta?

  • Compare the behaviors of Augusta with her brother Jack. How can two children with the same parents be so different? If Augusta had not been sent away, would Jack have followed in her rebellious footsteps? Discuss Augusta and Jack's sister-brother relationship -- was there sibling rivalry?

  • The mother in Augusta, Gone is a high-powered executive and a single mother with a boyfriend. How do you think she was able to maintain this relationship during the height of Augusta's problems? How can women balance the demands of corporate life, motherhood, and their needs as women? Is Dudman a successful example of this?

  • From her children's youngest days, Dudman tried to be the kind of parent who really talked to her children. Why do you think her relationship with Augusta degenerated into "lies and exaggerations?" Is it just a normal part of teenage life?

  • Is Augusta, Gone a beacon of comfort and hope for parents or a cautionary tale? How did the characters in Augusta, Gone change from start to finish? About the Author: Martha Tod Dudman served as President and General Manager of Dudman Communications, a group of radio stations, from 1990 to 1999. Now a professional fundraiser, she lives in Northeast Harbor, Maine.

  • Interviews

    Telling Augusta by Martha Tod Dudman

    When people find out I've written a book about my daughter, they right away want to know what she thinks of it.

    "What does your daughter think?" they ask me.

    I know what they want. They want me to tell them that she reacted violently, or that we had to have some big important talk about it. They want me to tell them why I wrote the book. Was it cathartic? they always ask.

    First of all, when you write a book like Augusta, Gone, you're not thinking the whole time what will this person think, what will that person think? You're just writing the story that you need to tell. When you're done with it, then you are suddenly forced to consider its effect on the people you love. It doesn't really matter what the general population thinks. But it does matter what your mother thinks. What your dad thinks. What your sister thinks, your boyfriend thinks, what your children think. And in the case of a story like this, which is so brutally frank about a very dark time in our lives, how it will affect the delicately negotiated relationship you're trying to build with your daughter.

    I didn't tell Augusta about the book until it was clear that my agent was going to sell it. While I was working on it, I felt that my daughter was still too fragile to hear about the book and anyway, what was the point? It might never be published. I hadn't really written it for publication. I'd written it because I had to write it because it was writing itself in my dreams every night.

    She wasn't too interested, anyway. Kids aren't too interested in what their mothers do at their desks at 5:00 in the morning writing away on their computers. They're not too interested in long phone conversations their mothers have with people in New York -- their agents, editors, their friends, talking about chapters and pages of stuff that the kids probably aren't going to ever read anyway.

    One day in November I was raking leaves in the cold yard. It was cloudy. Maybe it was raining lightly. Augusta was inside reading a book on the couch. My agent had told me she had several editors interested in the book. It looked like she was going to sell it. I had to tell my daughter.

    I had thought and thought about how I would tell her. We were okay now, but I could still feel the danger of the way it was. Still taste that sharp feeling I used to feel around her. Sometimes in the middle of what seemed like a normal conversation I'd still get scared that she'd turn around and the other one would be there with her angry eyes and her mean voice. But I had to tell her.

    I had decided that if Augusta didn't want me to publish the book, that I wouldn't.

    I put down my rake and went into the house.

    "I have to talk to you," I told her.

    "What did I do?" she asked.

    "No," I said. "This time I'm the one. I did something."

    I came into the room and sat down on the opposite couch.

    "I wrote a book about you. About all the stuff that happened."

    "You did?"

    "It's pretty rough, some of it. But anyway, I wrote it, and I've got an agent and she thinks she can get it published. But it's about what happened. There's a lot of stuff in there. If you don't want me to publish it, I won't.

    "Of course," I went on, "it's my lifelong dream. But don't let that influence you. Here's what could happen: nothing. Lots of books get published. It could get published and sink without a ripple. Oh you know, there'd be an article in the Bar Harbor Times and The Ellsworth American and the Bangor Daily News and some of your friends would tease you, but that would be it. Or, you know, it could really take off. People could really like it. And there might be articles about it. Maybe a movie. People might want to interview you."

    She sat up.

    "Interview me?" she asked.

    I nodded.

    Augusta lay back on the cushions and waved her hand airily, "Publish away," she said.

    (Courtesy of Simon & Schuster)

    Customer Reviews

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    Augusta, Gone: A True Story 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 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.
    jbarklow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    (256)This book was a Mom's perspective on her adolescent daughter becoming a troubled teen, doing drugs, drinking, stealing, being promiscuous, etc, and how she had to deal with it and how it effected her family.Truthfully, it is a sad story, but a little whiny and annoying and can make you want to put it down at times. I suggest this book to anyone who is going through the same thing, because I bet there would be a lot of things that you could relate to. It makes more sense to those as well, and also I bet anyone who had the same situation who read this book would enjoy it more.
    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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    Guest More than 1 year ago
    This book points out a lot of what is wrong in today's society - parents too self absorbed and depending on schools, teachers, society, etc. to watch after their children and report any problems. I grew up in the same area and went to the same schools 20 years before...all of the drugs, the parties, and the wildness have always existed and most of us had more than just a taste of it. Most of us are rebellious as teenagers, but we aren't allowed to get away with it like Augusta was. Raising a child is a full time commitment and starts from the day they're born. If you set the limits and ground rules early and are consistent with them, you'll have a better chance of surviving the rebellious teens. As I read this book, I couldn't help reflecting on how my parents would have/did react to some of the situations written about...I lived in their house thus my room was never off limits, telephone conversations took place in the kitchen where all could hear, curfew was much as I hated it I at least knew they cared. It gave me great pain to read this book and have an 'outsider' blame this little town and it's inhabitants for the behaviour of her child, but I think it's important for parents to read so they have an idea of what is going on with thier children (we sometimes forget the insecurities we felt as a teenager) and important for children to read so they know their parents are there for them, but may not know how to reach out and show they care and want to help.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    This was a crazy book to read for me- as I am the charachter Rain in this book-and Agusta was my best friend in highschool. I give Martha alot of credit for the honesty of this book. When the book is noted as a true story-even as one of the charachters in question-I can vouch for its complete and perhaps moving/dark honesty. I was afraid to read it at first-afraid I would be offended, angered by her interpretation of our lives, as believe it or not mothers, it was a very difficult and trying time for the two of us, as well. I was touched by the depiction of her sadness, her hopelessness, for it gave me a lot of insight into how my mother (Jenny) must have been feeling through that time. I wasn't angry with this book. I think every mother and daughter should read it, if only for the realization that you are not alone, and that you will survive-through all of the insanity that today's adolescents and their parents navigate through, and not to lose hope.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    I am 16 years old and this book has really hit home for me. It relates alot to the relationship of my mother and me. A lot of the fights the mother and her daughter have are like the ones I get into with my mom. I cried in the end of this book and it made me realize that I need to be thankful for my mother and that she is always here for me. This book is something a mother and even a young daughter can relate too.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    This book is about a mother keeping herself sane and her daughter safe during the latters teenage years. The trick seems to be never giving up on either goal. I read this book in one afternoon - having 4 teenagers, and being a single, divorced mother, i could relate so well with the author.
    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!!!