Agnes in SHUGGIE BAIN (Spoiler Alert)

Self hungrily read almost all the Shuggie Bain reviews because she hates to become vested in a character only to have it end with that character committing suicide.

She’s just past p. 50 and it almost seems as if Agnes is dead. She sets fire to her room when she hears her husband come home. Then she holds Shuggie in her arms and pretends like it’s a game. Shuggie, who has to be the most dysfunctional mama’s boy in the long line of literary mama’s boys, lies passively (but observantly!) in his mother’s arms as the room gets smokier and smokier.

The husband comes in when he smells the smoke, doesn’t say a word, rips the burning curtains off the rods and tosses them out the window. Self thought Agnes was dead until the very last line of the chapter.

Next chapter, point of view switch to Catherine, Shuggie’s older sister. Catherine’s almost home when she sees a pile of scorched curtains on the ground and “recognized them to be the same as her mother’s, burnt and still smoking.” Catherine being a very smart girl, she puts two and two together and thinks to herself: This is not a good sign.

Self doesn’t know what the hoo-ha is about Thatcher in the reviews. Mebbe Thatcher is responsible for this family’s dysfunction, but it’s boring to think that way. She’d rather read a book about family dysfunction without having to blame the dysfunction on politicians. Self’s enjoyment of angst depends entirely on whether she believes a family has agency in its own self-destruction.

So far, the Thatcher references have been minimal. Thank the Lord!

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