Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme that was started by @Lauren’s Page Turners. This meme is quite easy to follow – just randomly pick a book from your to-be-read list and give the reasons why you want to read it. It is that simple.
This week’s book:
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
Blurb from Goodreads
Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh “Shuggie” Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher’s policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city’s notorious drugs epidemic is waiting in the wings. Shuggie’s mother Agnes walks a wayward path: she is Shuggie’s guiding light but a burden for him and his siblings. She dreams of a house with its own front door while she flicks through the pages of the Freemans catalogue, ordering a little happiness on credit, anything to brighten up her grey life. Married to a philandering taxi-driver husband, Agnes keeps her pride by looking good–her beehive, make-up, and pearly-white false teeth offer a glamourous image of a Glaswegian Elizabeth Taylor. But under the surface, Agnes finds increasing solace in drink, and she drains away the lion’s share of each week’s benefits–all the family has to live on–on cans of extra-strong lager hidden in handbags and poured into tea mugs. Agnes’s older children find their own ways to get a safe distance from their mother, abandoning Shuggie to care for her as she swings between alcoholic binges and sobriety. Shuggie is meanwhile struggling to somehow become the normal boy he desperately longs to be, but everyone has realized that he is “no right,” a boy with a secret that all but him can see. Agnes is supportive of her son, but her addiction has the power to eclipse everyone close to her–even her beloved Shuggie.
A heartbreaking story of addiction, sexuality, and love, Shuggie Bain is an epic portrayal of a working-class family that is rarely seen in fiction. Recalling the work of Edouard Louis, Alan Hollinghurst, Frank McCourt, and Hanya Yanagihara, it is a blistering debut by a brilliant novelist who has a powerful and important story to tell.
Why I Want To Read It
Yet another 2020 Man Booker Prize List Book. Last week, I featured Anne Tyler’s Redhead by the Side of the Road which was longlisted for the award. That was a day before the short list came out. Unfortunately, Redhead by the Side of the Road failed to make the cut for the six shortlisted books. In a surprising upset (in literary magnitude at least), Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light also missed the mark. The Mirror and the Light is the final installment to her Thomas Cromwell Trilogy; and oh yes, the first two books in the the trilogy took home the Man Booker Prize.
In a nutshell, the 2020 Man Booker shortlist drew mixed but mostly positive reactions, some even praising the committee for coming up with the most “diverse” shortlist in years. One of the books in the shortlist is Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain. Its being shortlisted is the primary reason why I want to read it. Learning more about the book – how it grapples with sexuality and identity, substance and physical abuse – made me look forward to it even more. Yes, it does sound very heavy and depressing but I somehow feel that there is a hopeful message at the end of it all.
Shuggie Bain, apparently, is a coming-of-age story set in an environment where violence permeates; for a lack of better superlative, “ugly”. I personally like coming-of-age stories. Done properly, they are very ruminating. They are wells from which deep lessons emanate. I am looking at Shuggie Bain not just of what I expect is an emotional rollercoaster (“heartbreaking” is a common description) but I am looking at how vividly Stuart will weave the pains of growing up.
Thus ends my Goodreads Monday post. How about you fellow reader, what book do you want to read? I hope you can share it in the comment box. For now, happy reading! Have a great week ahead!