Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute

Book: Shuggie Bain Athenaeum Book Club 2021

By Douglas Stuart

April 1, 2021

1981.  Glasgow.  The city is dying.  Poverty is on the rise.  People watch the lives they had hoped for disappear from view.

Agnes Bain had always expected more.  She dreamed of greater things: a house with its own front door, a life bought and paid for outright (like her perfect – but false – teeth).  When her philandering husband ups and leaves, she and her three children find themselves trapped in a mining town decimated by Thatcher-era politics.  As Agnes increasingly turns to alcohol for comfort, her children try their best to save her.  Yet one by one they abandon her in order to save themselves.

It is her son Shuggie who holds the longest.  But Shuggie has problems of his own: despite all his efforts to pass as a normal boy, everyone has started to realize that Shuggie is ‘no right’.  Agnes wants to be there for her son, but her addiction has the power to eclipse everyone close to her – even her beloved Shuggie.

Laying bare the ruthlessness of poverty, the limits of love, and the hollowness of pride.  Shuggie Bain is a blistering debut by an exceptional novelist with a powerful and important story to tell.

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