This book is truly everything I want from a novel. The vividness of the characters, the sheer beauty and authenticity of the writing, moments that make one angry enough to throw the book against a wall, and passages tender enough to bring a waterfall of tears at just the thought of them. This story captures so well the dark loneliness queer people often found themselves facing (and still face in so many places even now), especially those growing up and coming-of-age in the 1990's, but certainly in times before and after that as well. That deep struggle to accept one's sexuality and oneself when there's not much around to affirm those parts of you, grasping onto anything one can for the hope of something better. On the other side, it also highlights the courage, strength, and endurance these same queer people gain through their trials.
Following teenage Mungo, we’re thrown into the adversities of working-class life in Glasgow, Scotland in the 1990s. While faced with the instability of his family life, the fear of being forced into violent conflicts with his gang leader brother, and his own struggles to hide and comprehend his budding sexuality, he finds the unexpected: a hope for something better in a young man named James. Mungo is protestant and James is Catholic and they’ve been told they are enemies, but instead they become best friends. They bond over a passion for cultivating racing pigeons and eventually fall in love. When Mungo’s mother sends him away with two strange men on a harrowing fishing trip to a loch in western Scotland, he’s confronted with the need to find new strength and courage, and not lose hope for a better future.
A coming-of-age love story, raw and gripping, terrifying and beautiful, Young Mungo spans the bounds of masculinity, exposes the bloody conflicts of sectarianism, and highlights the ever-present trials that so many queer people must withstand in order to find themselves and be true to those whom they love. My heart breaks for Mungo and James, in all the best of ways! Recommended By Nicholas Y., Powells.com
In Young Mungo, Douglas Stuart continues his project of documenting working-class Scottish life in the late 20th century. While alcoholism, homophobia, and violence are all very present in Mungo's world, so is the possibility of escape into a time and place where his developing attraction to other boys can be accepted. Young Mungo is suspenseful and heartbreaking, hopeful and tender, and a worthy follow-up to Shuggie Bain. Recommended By Adam P., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A story of queer love and working-class families, Young Mungo is the brilliant second novel from the Booker Prize-winning author of Shuggie Bain
Douglas Stuart's first novel Shuggie Bain is one of the most successful literary debuts of the century so far. It was awarded the 2020 Booker Prize, and is now published or forthcoming in 40 territories, having already sold more than a million copies worldwide. Now Stuart returns with Young Mungo, his extraordinary second novel. Five years in the writing, it is both a page-turner and literary tour de force, a vivid portrayal of working-class life and a deeply moving and highly suspenseful story of the dangerous first love of two young men: Mungo and James.Born under different stars — Mungo a Protestant and James a Catholic — they should be sworn enemies if they're to be seen as men at all. Their environment is a hyper-masculine and sectarian one, for gangs of young men and the violence they might dole out dominate the Glaswegian estate where they live. And yet against all odds Mungo and James become best friends as they find a sanctuary in the pigeon dovecote that James has built for his prize racing birds. As they fall in love, they dream of finding somewhere they belong, while Mungo works hard to hide his true self from all those around him, especially from his big brother Hamish, a local gang leader with a brutal reputation to uphold. But the threat of discovery is constant and the punishment unspeakable. And when several months later Mungo's mother sends him on a fishing trip to a loch in Western Scotland, together with two strange men whose drunken banter belies murky pasts, he will need to summon all his inner strength and courage to try to get back to a place of safety, a place where he and James might still have a future.Imbuing the everyday world of its characters with rich lyricism and giving full voice to people rarely acknowledged in the literary world, Young Mungo is a gripping and revealing story about the bounds of masculinity, the push and pull of family, the violence faced by many queer people, and the dangers of loving someone too much.
"[An] astonishing sophomore effort...Stuart's writing is stellar....He's too fine a storyteller to go for a sentimental ending, and the final act leaves the reader gutted….It's a sucker punch to the heart." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"A searing, gorgeously written portrait of a young gay boy trying to be true to himself in a place and time that demands conformity to social and gender rules." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Romantic, terrifying, brutal, tender, and, in the end, sneakily hopeful. What a writer." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"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....Highly recommended." Library Journal (Starred Review)
About the Author
Douglas Stuart is a Scottish-American author. His New York Times-bestselling debut novel Shuggie Bain won the 2020 Booker Prize and the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. It was the winner of two British Book Awards, including Book of the Year, and was a finalist for the National Book Award, PEN/Hemingway Award, National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, Kirkus Prize, as well as several other literary awards. Stuart's writing has appeared in the New Yorker and Literary Hub.