Augusten Burroughs is a man of many words, but he was at a loss the other night.
The author of the best-selling memoirs “Running With Scissors” and “Dry” has been touring the country to talk about his most recent book, a self-helper called “This is How: Surviving What You Think You Can’t,” which dispenses straight-forward advice in the struggle with everything from loneliness and grief to alcoholism and sexual abuse. The tour brings him to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday and Miami on Monday.
If much of the book sounds too glib and off the cuff, as some reviewers have noted, its insights are the result of hard-won personal battles, Burroughs says, and “This is How” has resonated beyond the legions devoted to his darkly humorous best sellers. In online chatter and in the lines at book signings, fans have shared inspirational stories of triumph and their gratitude for “This is How.” Burroughs has heard it all –– until last week in Portland, Maine.
At a signing last Thursday at the Portland Public Library, Burroughs was sitting with his pen and his stack of books when three young women in their early 20s were among the first to step up. As he signed, Burroughs recalled, one of them said: “It’s the thing that got me through.”
Those words, which Burroughs has heard in some form many times on the tour, were followed by an explanation: The young woman had lost her little brother in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“I looked at her, but there were no words I could say. I think she could feel what I was feeling, which was: ‘I am so sorry. I am so glad I helped,’ ” Burroughs said in a recent phone conversation.
“She was one of the first people in line, so there was the pressure of the line behind her, but you could tell this was very important to her. She enunciated. She wanted to say something about her little brother,” Burroughs said.
The 47-year-old New York-based author said he remains indebted to the woman. “I felt so grateful. That was exactly why I wrote the book. I wrote it for her. … I love being out on the road, meeting people, because readers give you so much back. It’s shocking to me how generous they are.”
IF YOU GO
Augusten Burroughs will discuss and sign copies of “This is How” at 4 p.m. Saturday at Books and Books at the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale (1 E. Las Olas Blvd.). Tickets are $5, free with purchase of the book ($15). Info: 954-262-0255, MOAFL.org. He also will make an appearance at Books and Books in Coral Gables (265 Aragon Ave.) at 8 p.m. Monday. Free tickets available at store locations in Coral Gables, Miami Beach and Bal Harbour. Info: 305-442-4408, BooksandBooks.com. More on Burroughs at Facebook.com/AugustenBurroughs.