Select language, opens an overlay
Shuggie Bain

Shuggie Bain

A Novel

Book - 2020
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh "Shuggie" Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher's war on heavy industry has 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 his artistic brother and practical sister. 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 "whoremaster" of a 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 look after her as she swings between alcoholic binges and sobriety. He is meanwhile doing all he can to somehow become the normal boy he desperately longs to be, but everyone has realized that Shuggie is "no right," and now Agnes's addiction has the power to eclipse everyone close to her-even and especially her beloved Shuggie." -- From publisher's description.
Publisher: New York : Grove Press, 2020
Edition: First edition, First Grove Atlantic hardcover edition
Copyright Date: ©2020
ISBN: 9780802148049
Call Number: F STUART D
Characteristics: 430 pages ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

Debut novel follows a boy growing up in 1980s and 1990s Glasgow, Scotland. Shuggie likes dolls and is what would today be called gender-nonconforming. In exquisite detail, the book describes the devastating dysfunction in Shuggie's family, centering on his mother's alcoholism and his father's inf... Read More »

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Nov 23, 2020

At page 115, I am feeling like taking a shower, doing my laundry, and vacuuming top to bottom just to feel clean. Don’t tell me reading can’t create empathy. But it’s so, so much. And the stench and grit and agony doesn’t escape once you’ve stopped reading.

It’s almost thanksgiving and I want to take a break so I’m in a better frame of mind for the holidays. I have noticed I’m just sad and droopy, feeling all the pain of the characters, feeling like, “at least I’m not a crazy alcoholic leaving a good father for a nasty, abusive man with a combover. At least I don’t try to burn my mom’s house down while holding my little son in my arms while wanting to go down with the flames. At least I don’t get dressed up, pretending I’m better than the neighbors while drinking away all the food money. At least I don’t live in a disgusting bog of a tenement (I’ve been homeless, so I know hardship but I’m privileged and fortunate in any small comparison).

But here I go. Once I opened the book to write down the page number, I kept reading to the end of the chapter. And now I’m putting off abandoning the book because it has to get better? It has to have some point that isn’t all bleak and hopeless? I mean tell me it gets better. Or tell me to stop reading so I can smile during thanksgiving. Or does it remind me how much people suck and why I don’t like my relatives? And that life is so hard and sometimes it just gets worse?

Maybe I shouldn’t read this right before falling asleep.

The problem with giving up on a book is that you don’t get to enjoy the reward of a good, satisfying ending. After a break, I picked Snuggie back up hoping I wouldn’t regret it. So much spit and bodily fluids. So much people hurting those they love the most. So much pain of alcoholism and Thatcherism.

All I have to say is if you get grossed out and depressed, keep reading. Oh there’s more and new ways of feeling depressed and sad for the way humans treat each other. That doesn’t get better. But there’s hope and there’s tenacity and there is love. Not enough and not found in the normal ways, but it’s heartwarming (while continuing to be so very heartbreaking).

Agnes the alcoholic mom is really the main character and the book should be named for her but Shuggie is the one you break your heart over, and a better title, honestly. And Shuggie is the character who stays with you, and warms your heart and makes the book so tender and worth all the spit and domestic violence depicted.

What a journey this book is. What a glorious life it is to be human. And to survive. And to be loved. And find hope in the middle of abandonment. And in the middle of desolation and poverty.

Best book with the most bodily fluid references!


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at SFPL

To Top