Ugly to Start With by John Michael Cummings

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    Jason Stevens is a boy growing up in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia in the 1970’s.  His family doesn’t have a lot of money and he is often treated unfairly by the people he cares about.  The book is actually a collection of true short stories that are combined under one main character, Jason.  The stories chronicle  different periods of time in his life and how he survived them.

     The earlier chapters of the book deal with Jason and his family.  The family is embarrassed by their small house and rarely do they let anyone inside.  Whenever anyone does get inside the entire family is tense and jumpy.  Jason’s father is verbally abusive and takes out his shortcomings on Jason. There’s a chapter that deals with Jason’s friends, one of whom is homosexual and another who is mentally retarded. 

      In each chapter another issue comes in to play and we find how Jason reacts to it.  The issues run the gauntlet from family problems and infidelity to sexuality and racism.  I found that the way Jason acts in each of these situations is very realistic though not consistent.  He often acts one way in one situation but then does a complete 180 in another situation.  This is most likely because each chapter is a story from a different person.

      The book is different from most books I’ve read though it is enjoyable.  It’s thought provoking on so many different issues.  It’s a little hard to follow at times because because it jumps around so much.

      I also enjoyed this collection because I live fairly close to Harper’s Ferry and was able to picture many of the places the author was writing about.   Many of the families in my area are similar to Jason’s family and the entire book felt very real to me.

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

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