In Shuggie Bain, A 15-Year-Old Glaswegian Boy Turns Caretaker For His Alcoholic Mother


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Textual content by Vivek Tejuja. Images by Joshua Navalkar

Shuggie Bain is about many issues. Poverty, habit, Glasgow within the ‘80s and queerness. It’s additionally a narrative of a mom and her son who’s outlined by his “gayness” and seen as “completely different” and “different”. It’s concerning the religion we put in individuals. What occurs when a mother or father can’t love her little one sufficient? How does that play out in a world the place a mom’s love is sort of all the time outlined as “unconditional”?

Douglas Stuart’s debut as a printed creator had been within the works for a decade. How does a author reside with a narrative like this for ten years? Maybe it’s as a result of the novel additionally displays his life to some extent. Stuart is a Glaswegian (now dwelling in New York), and the plot attracts from his personal childhood in Scotland across the identical interval the ebook is about in.

Shuggie is 15, dwelling in a bed-sit (a shared area), working at a takeaway and, as I discussed earlier, homosexual. He’s shy and reclusive, and he’s grappling together with his id. His mom, Agnes, is a wonderful lady, a hopeless romantic and an alcoholic. Shuggie is her little helper. Her different two kids have deserted her for a shot at a greater life; it’s the youngest who needs to stay shut and check his capacity to like a broken mother or father.

The ebook had me eager about so many issues. Poverty, helplessness, the selections we take as a result of there is no such thing as a different approach out, abandonment and, greater than something, concerning the redemptive energy of affection, which will also be brutal, however perhaps it’s important to preserve at it.

Have you ever ever caught on and saved somebody since you would, in flip, be saving your self? Shuggie Bain is all about taking possibilities – if we get them. It isn’t solely about abject materials poverty but additionally concerning the emotional poverty of oldsters, which is sort of grim. What occurs when the kid has to imagine the function of a mother or father? What if it isn’t actually the mother or father’s fault? What if the mother or father is attempting exhausting as properly however is unable to rise above the state of affairs?

We by no means see Shuggie come into his personal. He stays on the periphery, both caring for his mom or questioning why he’s the way in which he’s. Stuart’s writing is sharp and exquisite, beautiful even, regardless of the circumstances of his characters. It soars over the impoverishment, the hopelessness and the brokenness of Agnes and Shuggie’s relationship, all the time conserving love as its cornerstone. The ebook wrings each emotion out of you. Be ready – I needed to attain for a field of tissues. I didn’t realise it till the tears have been already streaming down my face. Shuggie Bain is that sort of ebook. It takes you by the hand after which tears you aside.


In this column, Verve’s Tradition Editor presents private reflections and significant insights on a wide-ranging collection of literature. Throughout the coming weeks, he’ll concentrate on this yr’s Booker shortlist till November 17th, when the profitable novel might be introduced 





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