Shuggie Bain - Douglas Stuart

Shuggie Bain

By Douglas Stuart

  • Release Date: 2020-02-11
  • Genre: Fiction & Literature
Score: 4.5
From 434 Ratings



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.


  • Did not enjoy

    By marfy17
    This book felt like torture to get through. It was sooo long and boring.
  • Very tough

    By Fladaddy
    Tough depressing realistic book. If you’re from an alcoholic family you could tell a similar story- I know I can. The writing is unique but this was too familiar to me and I had to push through it.
  • One of the best

    By nyccuz
    I was drawn in with the first paragraph. A dark novel that is wonderfully written.
  • Great read

    By mikey434379
    Put me in mind of Faulkner. Would love to see this produced as a play.
  • Shuggie

    By SC Poole
    Won’t forget Shuggie and Agnes. Vivid storytelling and immersive language. A book that will give you pause and force you to reflect on life’s fortunes and misfortunes.
  • Shuggie Bain

    By Artymusician
    Wow - this was such a sad story to read, but a familiar one to too many families struggling with addiction and those dysfunctional behaviors that characterize it and the resulting misery, poverty, hunger, helplessness, and hopelessness that follow. In the end, we are only responsible for ourselves, and should never allow shame, fear, or guilt to take away our faith or happiness. And as Eleanor Roosevelt said, “no one can make you feel inferior” ( or shame, guilt, etc per me) “without your consent.” If this book hits home, AA, Al Anon, rehabilitation, and therapy are just phone calls or internet searches away. Based on personal experience, all help immensely! Congratulations to this author for expressing the severe pain and extreme sadness many of us have felt but could not put into words. Heartbreaking but there is hope.
  • Writing

    By The Adams Man
    Such great writing. Very vividly written.
  • Shuggie Bain

    By Bell407pilot
    Profoundly moving book and very hard to put down. I read it using iBooks and was glad for the ability to reach over in the middle of the night to check in on poor Shuggie. Closing the last page today, I feel like I have lived another life. My world is bigger and I am a more empathic person today than I was 2 weeks ago.