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Read With Us: Let's Talk About It

Read With Us

Welcome to Read With Us book discussion week!

Bonny and Carole and I are each posting a different question (or questions) on our blogs today about our latest RWU book . . . Shuggie Bain. Join the discussion (which you're welcome do even if you didn't read the book).  I'll be answering your posts within the comment section for this discussion -- and you can comment on other people's comments, as well. Y'know . . . like in a real book group. (Please know . . . that because of the limitations of Typepad, I can't "layer" or "stack" the comments in my comment feed. Sorry. Bear with me.)

Let's begin. . . 


First . . . I'd really like to know what you thought of the book. How did it make you feel? Did you like it? Do you think it deserved to win the 2020 Booker Prize?

Next . . . The author uses Scottish dialect throughout the novel. What does this add to the narrative, and how did you find reading it if you weren't familiar with some of the words?

Last . . . Shuggie has two older siblings who eventually escape their dysfunctional mother. How do you feel about them leaving Shuggie behind? Was it their responsibility to protect him? Or were they right to try to save themselves?

I can't wait to hear what you think!


Don't forget: We'll be discussing the book on Zoom tonight - 7:00 pm Eastern Time. There's still time for you to join us! Just let me know of your interest either with a comment or by sending me an email (see sidebar, above) -- and I'll send a Zoom invitation. 

PS - If you have signed up for the Zoom, but you haven't received an invitation from me by noon today, please let me know so I can re-send the invitation to you.



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I felt that Shuggie Bain was surprisingly good. I was initially a little afraid of it because I had only heard about the bleakness, poverty, and alcoholism, but I also saw lot of love and hope. I think the dialect helped place the book firmly in Glasgow, and much of it was understandable in context. The Glaswegian dictionary that you previously linked to did help! I don't think that Leek and Catherine were responsible for Agnes or Shuggie and understood their desire to get away. I was surprised that Shuggie stuck around and tried to rescue Agnes for as long as he did (I don't know if he had a real choice) but alcoholism won in the end.


I was so apprehensive to read this book, and I confess... while I enjoyed the writing tremendously, the story was painful to read. And, I am with Bonny... that Glaswegian Dictionary link you shared was so helpful!

The siblings... oh boy. I don't blame them. How do you care for others if you don't know how? How do you save others when your main focus is getting out. For me... this is the hallmark of a family of addiction. Survival of self is a driving factor.

And I don't know if Shuggie had any real choices...he was the "caretaker" of the house.


Very much looking forward to the discussion tonight! I did enjoy the book, though it feels a bit wrong to say that I liked something that was so sad, so maybe I should say that I found it to be a worthwhile read. I suspect that the audiobook version probably would add to the experience; I "heard" the accent in my head a bit as I was reading, but I'm sure it was nowhere near authentic. I will admit that there were plenty of things I didn't fully understand because of the dialect/slang, and while there was usually enough context to get the gist of things, I'm sure there were some things I missed.


I really enjoyed reading this book. I was expecting far FAR worse -- it was bleak, there was disappointment (after disappointment after disappointment) but resilience and, more than anything, LOVE.

I'd purchased a print copy of the book before I even realized that it was set in Glasgow, because I would certainly have gone audio! So I loved that you shared your hybrid reading/listening method, and did the same. (I wish it was easier to do that with more books!) I can't even imagine this book being written/read without the Glaswegian dialect & slang. (And I LOVE all the words the Scots have to describe precipitation. SMIRR was a new one to me, and now my favorite!)

I felt bad for Shuggie that Leek & Catherine escaped and left him behind, but there's really no way in the world they could have cared for him... and he wouldn't easily leave Agnes, anyway. If anyone was "responsible" for Shuggie it was his dad, Big Shug (the big jerk).


I look forward to the discussion tonight!
I did enjoy the book, but found it bleak and depressing, in spite of that, I was pulled along by the beautiful writing. I think reading it back in April when I was feeling down and just tired from this pandemic may have added to my emotional reaction to the book.
I did find the dialect link you shared to be helpful.
I don't think Catherine and Leek were able to care for Shuggie, it was enough for them to take care of themselves. Shuggie was so young, he loved his mother and needed her so much and he tried so hard to protect her. I think Agnes needed Shuggie as much as he needed her.


I'm glad I read the book and it was a real page-turner - sort of in that can't help but look way. I especially loved the character of Shuggie. as to the Booker Prize - it was certainly a solid, well-told story, but I'm not at all sure it was the BEST book written in English and published in Great Britain or Ireland. I would've given the prize to Hamnet or Apeirogon. But disagreeing with the Booker prize isn't new for me!


I don't know if I enjoyed it as I was frustrated with it a lot. I feel that the siblings did what they had to do and Shuggie would never have left. I do also blame his father who could have done more to support his child. I did have a little difficulty with the dialect but could figure out what the author was trying to say.

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