Book Group: "Shuggie Bain" Led by Alice Moody

Alice Moody will lead a discussion of the Booker Prize winning novel Shuggie Bain, by Stuart Douglas. This event is free but registration is required. Email events@thebookstall.com to reserve your spot. Space may be limited!

About the Book: "We were bowled over by this first novel, which creates an amazingly intimate, compassionate, gripping portrait of addiction, courage and love. The book gives a vivid glimpse of a marginalized, impoverished community in a bygone era of British history. It's a desperately sad, almost-hopeful examination of family and the destructive powers of desire."--Booker Prize Judges

The domestic spaces, the blighted landscape, the meanness of people, the bullying at school, the constant threat of violence, all add up to a picture of misery. Against this, however, there is an undercurrent that becomes more and more powerful, as Stuart, with great subtlety, builds up an aura of tenderness in the relationship between helpless Shuggie and his even more helpless mother . . . By drawing Agnes and Shuggie with so much texture, he makes clear that neither mother nor son can be easily seen as a victim. Instead, they emerge forcefully; they are fully, palpably present."--Colm Tóibín, Bookforum

"Astonishingly good, one of the most moving novels in recent memory."--Hillary Kelly, Los Angeles Times

"The tough portraits of Glaswegian working-class life from William McIlvanney, James Kelman, Alasdair Gray, and Agnes Owens can be felt in Shuggie Bain without either overshadowing or unbalancing the novel . . . Stuart's capacity for allowing wild contradictions to convincingly coexist is also on display in the individual vignettes that comprise the novel, blending the tragic with the funny, the unsparing with the tender, the compassionate with the excruciating. He can even pull off all of them in a single sentence . . . This overwhelmingly vivid novel is not just an accomplished debut. It also feels like a moving act of filial reverence."--James Walton, New York Review of Books

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 glamorous 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 Édouard 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.

Event date: 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021 - 6:30pm

Event address: 

Online Zoom event!
Staff Pick Badge
Shuggie Bain: A Novel (Booker Prize Winner) Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780802148506
Availability: On Our Shelves Now--Subject to Availability
Published: Grove Press - October 13th, 2020

WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD

A stunning debut novel by a masterful writer telling the heartwrenching story of a young boy and his alcoholic mother, whose love is only matched by her pride.