“Shuggie Bain is sad, but there’s so much more to it than that. Hugh “Shuggie” Bain is different—he’s gentle and polite and lonely, a poor boy growing up in 1980’s Glasgow. His glamorous mother, Agnes, is an alcoholic, but she embodies her dignity when she needs it most. In one notably humorous scene, she drunkenly collects her son from his good-for-nothing father, upon checking herself out of the psych ward, and breaks the windows of his house while neighborhood boys whoop and holler at her boldness. Shuggie runs to his savior and clings to her with unconditional love. Eventually, he and his mother pledge to be “brand new” upon moving back into the city—she’ll stop drinking and Shuggie will be “normal.” But no matter how many football statistics he memorizes, Shuggie will never be like other boys, and his mother will never stop drinking. Their relationship is beautiful and overflowing with love, deeply humanizing those who struggle with substance abuse. I’ll never forget Shuggie Bain.”
Mary, Raven Book Store
This 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 glamourous 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. Meanwhile, Shuggie is 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.