Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

Like Shuggie Bain, this is the story of a little boy (ok, this one is less little) who is gay, and in the thrall of his alcoholic mother, in the 90s in a very poor part of Glasgow. This one has a tighter plot, and – if this was possible – is darker. There’s a more explicit love story and more violence. The structure is propulsive, with two timelines, an earlier, faster one catches up with a later, slower one, and it picks up speed approaching a surprise (not a twist) and the book’s first and only moment of grim hope in the very last sentence. It’s intensely miserable – violence, alcoholism, selfishnesss and toxic masculinity reign-but it’s so, so engaging. Also worth noting in both books, the rendering of dialect, which really makes it come alive and is deftly done so as not to be distracting. Recommend- bring Kleenex.

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