Book Review: Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Looking for your next read? Check out Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, reviewed by Fulco Library staff, Ellen B.

Set in Glasgow, Scotland in the 1980’s, Shuggie is a son of an alcoholic mother and an absent father. He is the youngest of 3 children and the one who stays with his mother through more of her struggle than the others. He cannot tear himself away. His siblings each go to different lengths to save their mother until they realize they need to save themselves. He cares for her, defends her and loves her fiercely. In between her drinking, his mother dresses up and puts on her makeup as if all is well. His father comes and goes from the house he bought his wife in order to show that they were keeping up with everyone else. Shuggie has his own struggles – mainly that he is a sensitive boy in a masculine city like Glasgow.

A heartbreaking book, but well worth reading. Stuart shows himself to be a writer that can bring a city and a time in Great Britain to life that was very difficult. Steel works and shipbuilding were declining and unemployment was above 25% in Glasgow. I loved this book because it shows the flaws of each character and also their strengths, Shuggie in particular. He is easily imagined as a boy who believed that his mother drank because of something that he did or didn’t do. Later he realizes this is simply not true and moves on with his life.

Shuggie Bain won the 2020 Booker Prize. It can be checked out in print or digitally.

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Shuggie Bain

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