Douglas Stuart’s powerful debut novel ”Shuggie Bain” is a compelling read that covers a lot of ground. But I felt that the core theme is all about abandonment — by the cruel Thatcher government of Britain’s citizens, by men of women and children, by greedy capitalists of hard-working family breadwinners.
The results are fully predictable: adults who self-medicate and become addicts to self-medicate to deaden the pain, children who become mean, evil, misogynist, and sexually promiscuous when devoid of supervision and role models. Education is a waste of time for most, a place of pain and a constant threat of sexual abuse and bullying. Food is scarce and secondary to alcohol, drugs, and gambling. Housing is cramped, damp, and dangerous.
Glasgow is the perfect background — dark, dreary, scary, and desolate. There is a hopelessness and emptiness that is profoundly sad. Douglas Stewart captures all of this with a relentless drumbeat. There are several times when his sentences take your breath away. There are many others where events break your heart.
And through it all is Shuggie Bain who is one of the most wonderful characters to come along in a very long time. You will never be forgotten.
Thank you Grove Atlantic and NetGalley for the eArc.