… is relentless. When I started to read it, I needed long breaks between chapters to take in the harsh realities of Hugh’s (aka Shuggie’s) life. The author Douglas Stuart describes the boy’s relationship with his mother – a Liz Tayloresque beauty with a drinking problem of epic proportions – in all brutal honesty, showing the meanderings of hope during her „dry“ episodes and the repeated falls back into the fog of alcohol that seem to be unavoidable. The book is also an introduction to some parts of Glasgow, a city I haven’t been to yet. Places like black & white photographs where lost people live, left behind by economic policy changes that got rid of mining. Hope seems scarce, children grow up tormenting those who don’t fit in (boys that don’t want to finger girls, for example), and Shuggie bears the brunt of the envy that surrounds his mother in spite of her many problems. Men fall for her and are ultimately her downfall. Predictably, things don’t end well for Agnes, but Shuggie finds some beauty in a new friendship. Towards the middle of the book, I didn’t need to pause reading any more. Not because the words didn’t hurt any more, but because I’d fallen for their harsh beauty. A must-read!