A brilliant book and such a worthy winner of the Booker Prize 2020! But also such a dark, depressing and brutal read. It reminded me a lot of A Little Life, and just like that book it left devastated and uneasy after reading it. I know it’s a book that will stay with me and that I will never forget, even though I almost wish for it. Shuggie Bain is a raw storytelling that is both heartbreaking and deeply moving, beautiful and brutal, compassionate and encouraging as well as painful and frustrating at the same time.
The story follows the sweet, lonely, gay boy Shuggie Bain growing up in the economic and social stagnation of 1980s Glasgow, Scotland, together with his alcoholic mother. Abandoned by his father and older siblings, he struggles to take on the responsibility and care for his mother, while also struggling to become the normal boy he desperately longs to be instead of the “no right” boy with a secret that all but him can see. It’s a portrait of a struggling city and post-industrial working-class community, a mother that is shunned by the other women and preyed upon by the men and of a young boy being outcast for who he is and navigating the harsh reality the best he can.
I actually think that “Agnes Bain” would have been a better title though, since the main focus and the center for the story and all the other characters is Shuggie’s mother and her struggle with the addiction and misery.
I have to admit that there were so many times I got frustrated with Agnes and the poor decisions she kept making and the way she was abusive to Shuggie and her elder children. But mostly I pitied her, and felt deeply sorry for Shuggie. It was impossible to not see how deep his love for his mother was, and to see the sweet, fun and glorious parts of Agnes’s personality through Shuggie’s eyes. So for most of the time, Shuggie made me feel compassion for Agnes too.
This book is brilliant, clearly written from the heart and with a wonderful flow. It’s agonizing and heart-wrenching, tragic and so depressing, but -luckily- with a few glimmers of hope. It such a worthy Booker Prize winner, but for me it was a bit on the long side and just too dark and devastating. It made me feel uneasy, frustrated, heartbroken and just too sad to fully appreciate it. Therefore, I can only give it a four star rating, even though I recognize that it is an amazing book and future classics.
I do encourage everyone to read it though, just be aware of the trigger warnings and be prepared for your heart and mind to be scrambled.
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All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Adib Khorram Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alexene Farol Follmuth Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Ali Hazelwood Alison Cochrun Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton A. Meredith Walters Amy Aislin Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster Amy Spalding André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Audrey Coulthurst Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg B.L. Maxwell Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cale Dietrich Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare C.F. White C.G. Drews Charli Meadows Chris Bedell Ciara Smyth Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colette Davison Colleen Hoover Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Debbie Schrack Deborah Harkness Delia Owens Deonn Tracy D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elizabeth Acevedo Elizabeth Arroyo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E. Lockhart Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Evan J. Corbin Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett H.E. Edgmon Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacqueline Lee Jacqueline Woodson Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jax Calder Jay Hogan Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jenna Evans Welch Jenn Burke Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Iacopelli Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han Jeremy Ray Jesse H. Reign John Green Jonny Garza Villa Julianne Donaldson Julian Winters Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé KD Casey Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Laura Hall Laura Pavlov Laura Silverman Lauren James Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Leylah Attar Lisa Henry Lisa Williamson Lisa Wingate Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Lola Noire Lynn Michaels Mackenzi Lee Madeline Miller Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Mason Deaver Matthew R. Corr Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally Moa Backe Astot M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Starr Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Owen Lach Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Brownell Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve Rhiannon Wilde Riley Hart River Braun Roan Parrish Robin Gow Roseanne A. Brown Rowan MacKemsley Ruby Moone Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sally Rooney Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Sasha Laurens Saundra Mitchell Serena Bell Shannon O’Connor Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophie Gonzales S.R. Lane Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Steven Salvatore Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Tamara Girardi Teagan Hunter Tiffany D. Jackson Timothy Janovsky T.J. Klune T.L. Bradford Tobly McSmith Tomasz Jedrowski Tomi Adeyemi Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Wesley Chu Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard V.L. Stuart Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez