Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Book Description:

It is 1981. Glasgow is dying and good families must grift to survive. Agnes Bain has always expected more from life, dreaming of greater things. But Agnes is abandoned by her philandering husband, and as she descends deeper into drink, the children try their best to save her, yet one by one they must abandon her to save themselves.

It is her son Shuggie who holds out hope the longest. Shuggie is different, he is clearly no’ right. But Shuggie believes that if he tries his hardest, he can be normal like the other boys and help his mother escape this hopeless place.

Shuggie Bain lays bare the ruthlessness of poverty, the limits of love, and the hollowness of pride. For readers of A Little Life and Angela’s Ashes, it is a heartbreaking novel by a brilliant writer with a powerful and important story to tell.

My Thoughts:

In this book we meet Shuggie a young boy from a dysfunctional family. We first meet him in present day in the nineties as a teenager and then we are taken back to when he is a young child and what life was like for him growing up.

This isn’t an easy read. Shuggie isn’t like most boys of which has him picked on and bullied at school as well as by neighbouring children. He is particularly close to his mum for what good it does him. It was heartbreaking to see him craving for attention and for her to be how a mother is supposed to be. Seeing things on the opposite foot with the child looking after the well fare of his mum it broke my heart reading of Shuggie’s childhood basically being stolen from him.

Through Agnes his mother, we see what addiction can do to someone. I was torn with my feelings for this woman. On one hand she has been dealt a rough hand in life and does what she needs to do to try and keep a roof over her and her children’s heads but as with any addict, putting her own needs before those of her children left me infuriated and I wanted to give her a good hard shake.

Shuggie Bain is set in the eighties when poverty and job losses were at an all time high due to closures of the coal mines. Whilst this is the back drop of the novel, the main focus is on a young boy trying to work through his feelings of who he is as well as wanting the best for him and his mum. It shows the pressures on children who live with an addict and it’s something that no child should have to deal with. Grippingly raw and emotional with a boy whose story will stay with me.

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