Paula's Reviews > Stuart: A Life Backwards

Stuart by Alexander Masters
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May 12, 10

Read in April, 2009

This book will stay with me for a long. Having worked with homeless individuals over the past ten years, a lot of the book was familiar to me in terms of facts and figures, the book did highlight another fact I am very aware of ~ everyone has their own story and not so poignant as a person who lives on the street, you are surprised to read that some people choose the street, why? Because in some ways, it is theirs, they are away from the pain in their lives but by living on the streets they experience a new pain, it is unfortunately a vicious circle and there is so many people working in the background to help as people as possible.

The author of the book Alexander Masters met Stuart Shorter on the streets, Stuart’s reputation preceeds him, he was known as ‘Knife man Dan’, ‘that mad b*****d on level D’ but underneath there is a different side to Stuart, an astute, intelligent side which comes to light following the arrests and subsequent unjustly imprisonment of Ruth Wyner and John Brock, homeless workers for ‘knowingly allowing’ the supply of heroin, Ruth, John and the rest of the workers did as much as they could, informing the police, etc but nothing changed, individuals were still dealing drugs.
Stuart and Alexander become involved in the campaign to free Ruth and John, with Stuart insights and experience he helps more than he realises, for the first time in his life, Stuart is needed.

There is nothing nice about Stuart’s life, he decided that his story should be told backwards because he wanted the reader to see that he was not always the way he was, that at one point, he had been a happy child. The book explores Stuart’s life in a positive but respectful manner, there are issues in Stuart’s life that are very significant (he was sexually abused by his brother and his babysitter, school teachers), they are mentioned to highlight Stuart’s problems but they are not described, which I found easier to cope with to be honest. Stuart also suffered from muscular dystrophy but nothing about his life is used as an excuse by Stuart, he rolls with the punches, he faces his daily demons.

Stuart’s life was an eye opener, I learned from it and I think other readers will too, you will laugh, you will cry.

Unfortunately Stuart never saw the finished book, he died at the age of 33 years old on the 6th July 2002 after being hit by a train, and the jury returned an ‘open verdict’
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