Young Mungo

Atlantic Monthly. Apr. 2022. 400p. ISBN 9780802159557. $27. F
After the splendid Shuggie Bain, Stuart continues his examination of 1980s Glaswegian working-class life and a son’s attachment to an alcohol-ravaged mother, with results as good yet distinctly different; this is not a sequel. Here, Mo-Maw has abandoned her children in a self-pitying bid for her own happiness while 15-year-old Mungo is better able to articulate his own roiling emotions than the younger Shuggie. With big-hearted older sister Jodie, Mungo lives in a council flat they’ll soon lose if Mo-Maw doesn’t show up. He’s fearful that his brother, Hamish, will drag him into the “Proddy” (Protestant) gang he commands with ruthless authority and even more fearful that Hamish will discover the relationship he’s stumbled into with genial, pigeon-tending James, not only because being queer is considered contemptible but because James is Catholic. Meanwhile, an in-and-out-the-door Mo-Maw sends Mungo on a fishing trip with two shady men she barely knows, thinking to make a man of him; anticipating the outcome of these twinned storylines makes for anxious, propulsive reading.
VERDICT In language crisper and more direct than Shuggie Bain’s, if still spiked with startling similes, Stuart heightens his exploration of the sibling bond and the inexplicable hatred between Glasgow’s Protestants and Catholics, while contrasting Mungo’s tenderly conveyed queer awakening with the awful counterpart of sexual violence. Highly recommended.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing