Shuggie Bain is Douglas Stuart’s first novel and with it Stuart has already won the Booker Prize for the year 2020. What an astounding achievement for any writer! Award winning artistic creations have usually a melody of melancholy associated with them. A happy-go-lucky book or any other similar creation has usually a short lived memory. This maybe the reason that portfolios of old wrinkled women living in a distant village touches the heart of many more than the painting of a beautiful scenery.
Shuggie Bain is an extremely heavy book to read. Heavy not in terms of length, but in terms of the emotional turmoil it sets in inside the reader. I felt gutted for more than half of the length of the book. Shuggie Bain is a young boy of five years old living with his alcoholic mother Agnes, and his Casanova style father who eventually abandons them for another lady. You know what the book has in stock for you, there is nothing unexpected, but the details with which Stuart has written the sadness, the unconditional love of Shuggie for his mother, the helplessness of this little boy, the alcohol addiction of his mother and their neighbors catches you from the gut.
Little Shuggie is not a regular boy too. He enjoys playing with dollies, dancing for his mother, hates football, has slim arms and physique. He is not a regular boy, but that’s what he is. The society around him doesn’t let him be his natural self. He is trained by his brother to walk in a particular gait typical of a boy, he is asked to go fishing and even allowed to be spanked by a good for nothing man in his neighborhood so that Shuggie can get tough and become normal. And since Shuggie is the central character of this book, the reader will feel for the child. It torments one’s heart that why can’t the bullies just let him be. But when we see such Shuggie Bains in real life, we observe that we have coined hundreds of disgraceful names in our vocabulary for making a mockery of them. Every different person looks worth respecting as long as they are on screen or a character in a story, but the perception changes when even a glimpse of the traits become conspicuous in real world people. Such bigotry and double standard behaviour is like a display of home making and then home wrecking, all by the same crowd.
Out of the ordinary, the love Shuggie had for his mother reminded me of Whiskey, a meek yet cheerful kitten at my Uncle’s place. His mother, Gamma, was all that he cared for and made his life about. But over the time Gamma got weary of him because of her own troubles of the stray male cats always eager to catch hold of her and pounce on her yet again. Gamma started to get irritated of Whiskey’s dependency on her and his inability to take a stand against the macho male cats out on the street. Eventually Whiskey tried going out maybe to prove to his mother the audacious tiger like instinct he too had. But Whiskey could fool no one, not in the least his mother of the weakness in strength he had than other strays. Whiskey would be bitten and battered by other cats every now and then and gradually resigned to go out. He would watch his mother go around the house and would eagerly wait for Gamma to return back. But Gamma was lost in her own troubles and fantasies. You can buy the book on Amazon.