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Publisher's Summary

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’ 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.

©2020 Douglas Stuart (P)2020 Dreamscape Media, LLC

What listeners say about Shuggie Bain

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Sharey
  • 2020-02-29

Rather Interesting, Very Unfortunate

and Deeply Profound I would have enjoyed this even more if I had been able to understand it all. As it was, between the narrator's heavy accent and the dialect, there was a LOT I missed. In fact, I had to read the first two chapters over three times to get the hang of it and adjust my listening ear. A sad tale of alcoholism, family, sexuality, poverty, and shame. 4.75 Stars

11 people found this helpful

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  • Grant
  • 2020-09-25

A masterpiece

The beautiful writing of this debut novel wraps tenderly the joyful protoganist, surrounded by so much dreadful sadness and despair. Few books I’ve read have moved me so greatly and challenged me so deeply on how I should be a father and husband. One of those that will live with you long long after you’ve finished it.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Erna
  • 2020-10-02

Incredible performance

Beautifully read and a touching story that is so humane and delicate, never maudlin. Highly recommend.

6 people found this helpful

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  • David
  • 2020-10-19

Glaswegians under Pressure

The characters in “Shuggie Bain” are remarkable. They are poor, oppressed, often mean and often drunk. But somehow, despite their cruelties, they are sympathetic. Shuggie himself is a “not right” child, an effeminate boy living with his alcoholic mother, mostly near some shut coal mines in Glasgow. The novel follows Shuggie from age five through about 16, as his mother Agnes—the center of the story—struggles with loneliness, frustration and anger. Agnes carries herself with a “posh” style that fits her beauty but not her means. Shuggie’s taxi-driving father is mostly absent, and the neighbors treat the family with contempt. Douglas Stuart portrays all his characters with fine detail, total realism and a deep understanding. I always believed in the truth of the story. The narrator was excellent, with the right emotion and variations of voice. My only hesitation was his Scottish dialect, which could be hard to understand. He repeatedly mentions “Wayans,” for example, which I finally realized meant “wee ones.” But you catch on. Overall, this was a moving drama that held my interest throughout.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Robert D Hunter
  • 2020-11-11

A love story wrapped in tragedy and heart break.

The characters are so very real and live in such breathtaking circumstances. With all the pain Agnes causes and for all the damage that results her love for her son never wavers. The descriptions of life on the edges of society are all to vivid and poignant.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Mary Ann Bickmore
  • 2020-10-31

Good but.

I loved the descriptive narrative the authentic reading but this is a heavy book almost depressing.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Diane Q
  • 2020-10-19

One of the best

Everything about this audible selection hit the highest mark. A terrific story matched with a terrific narrator. This story will stay with me for a bit. Very well done!

2 people found this helpful