Stuart’s debut novel is short -listed for both The Booker Prize and The National Book Award, and rightly so. Throughout most of the story, Shuggie(nickname for Hugh) is a nine year old boy living in public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. His father has remarried and never visits Shuggie. His mother is an alcoholic. His older sister, desperate to leave their mercurial, conniving mother, marries and moves to South Africa. His older brother lives with Shuggie and their mom, but works all day, comes home, closes his bedroom door, and ignores his mother’s behavior. Shuggie is an outsider at school and in the neighborhood. He only has his unreliable, selfish, vain mother to comfort him.
Yes, Shuggie Bain is heart breaking, but much like A Little Life it is wonderfully written with a realistically drawn tragic main character.
P.S. Don’t be put off by the Scottish dialect, it becomes easy to understand after a few chapters and adds to the writing.