Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain (2020) is the most poignant book I’ve read in quite some time. A remarkable accomplishment considering it’s a debut novel and contender (now on the shortlist) for this year's Booker Prize.
The story revolves like a whirlpool around the young Hugh “Shuggie” Bain, whose mother, Agnes, seems incapable of ever freeing herself from alcohol addiction. In a deprived part of 1980s Glasgow, she tries, in spurts, and fails catastrophically with the drink, to cope with a philandering husband, the demands of motherhood, enticing reminiscences of her youth, and poverty. Stuart's storytelling doesn’t allow us to give up hope for her, for Shuggie—even when we catch glimpses of what may be inevitable. And the narrative develops with an elegant show-don’t-tell presentation while painting a bleak picture of Glaswegian society at the time. It's one of those rare and beautifully crafted novels that leaves a mark in your memory, and heart.