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Shuggie Bain: A Novel (Booker Prize Winner) (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

If you loved Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, you are going to fall in love with Shuggie Bain. This novel is simultaneously heartbreaking and gorgeous, and is sure to win your heart.

Shuggie Bain is Douglas Stuart’s first novel and is in the running for three major book awards. The story follows an alcoholic mother, Agnes Bain, and her young son Shuggie who loves her dearly.  The story is set in a 1980’s housing project outside Glasgow, Scotland. Life here is a daily struggle, where the neighbors and their troubles are on vibrant display. Keeping a fine appearance is everything to Agnes, but her good looks and fancy ways continually mire her in trouble. 

I adored this book and will never forget Agnes and Shuggie.

— Peggy



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.

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 douard 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.

About the Author

DOUGLAS STUART was born and raised in Glasgow. After graduating from the Royal College of Art in London, he moved to New York City, where he began a career in fashion design. Shuggie Bain is his first novel. His writing has appeared in the New Yorker and Literary Hub.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780802148049
ISBN-10: 0802148042
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: February 11th, 2020
Pages: 448
Language: English