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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. With courageous honesty, Augusta, Gone: A True Story
transports readers to the front lines of a family pushed to the breaking point, and deftly exhumes the profound depths of parental love.
1. Worry about teenagers has been a constant in modern society, but with broken families, school shootings, and legions of lost children, the dangers seem more pronounced than ever. How does Augusta, Gone
reflect these concerns? Is the book a comfort? A beacon of hope for families still working through their own tough times?
2. A generational theme runs through Augusta, Gone.
Martha Tod Dudman recalls her own turbulent adolescence and troubles with her own mom: "I'm up against it. My own past and my fearful motherhood." Might Augusta's troubles be a form of retribution for Martha's classic "boomer" behavior? Do you think that this generation, as a group, has failed their children?
3. "There were things that started to happen," Dudman recalls of her daughter's descent into adolescent turmoil of epic proportions. How does Dudman recreate the experience (both hers and her daughter's) of being out of control? How does she seek to restore a balance?
4. "I just want to keep her safe," writes Dudman about her self-destructive daughter. Augusta, Gone
reveals just how fragile the boundary between danger and safety can be. Were you frightened for Augusta as you read the book? What other emotions did you experience?
5. From her children's youngest days, Dudman tried to be the kind of parent who really talked to her kids. Augusta, Gone
chronicles the breakdown of parent-child communication, when conversations degenerate into "lies and exaggerations. Stories with enough truth in them to sometimes seem like real stories. Things that never happened. Things that could have happened." Discuss the ways communication functions -- as an obstacle, as a solution, or any other pattern you detect.
6. Augusta, Gone
explores some extreme parenting situations, as well as circumstances universal to all parents. Do you think parents' response to the book will reflect their particular parenting experiences? Which passages resonate most powerfully in this regard?
7. Augusta, Gone
does not profess to have the answers to the problems that Dudman, and so many other parents, face. In place of prescriptive programs, the book offers this heartfelt advice: Never give up, and never stop loving your children. How do Martha's actions show her love for Augusta?
8. In the aftermath of Augusta's unexpected homecoming, Martha describes the new kind of relationship she's forging with her daughter. "This has changed both of us, having her gone," she reflects. Chart the arc of each character's development over the course of the book.
9. Honesty is a primary characteristic of Dudman's writing. If you were called upon to share a personal story of your own, would you follow Martha's example? Would you feel more comfortable presenting your story as fiction or nonfiction?
10. In press interviews, Dudman is often asked about Augusta's response to the book. She replies: I was scared about having Augusta read it. I thought it would make her sad or angry at me for telling about that dark time. I warned her that it was going to be tough to read, and I told her to remember, the whole time she was reading the first part, that the book got better. I told her in the second part she'd see that I loved her. I told her to remember that, all the time she was reading it, that I loved her.
After she'd read the book she called me up. She told be that she kept waiting for the part when I was so angry. She said, "It isn't in the second half that you love me, Mommy. You love me all the way through."