Leslie's Reviews > Stuart: A Life Backwards

Stuart by Alexander Masters
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's review
Oct 29, 2014

really liked it
bookshelves: 2011, issues-and-ideas, creative-nonfiction
Read on February 08, 2011

Have you ever walked past a street person and wondered how he or she got there? Every one of them has a story, but it's a story we'd rather ignore, just as we'd rather ignore them. Masters gives us the story of one man and, through it, a glimpse into a damaged life. Stuart is appallingly damaged, and the explanation for how he got to where he ended up--addicted to multiple substances, chaotic, unstable, violent, and unpredictable--is sad and awful. Masters does not romanticise Stuart or show him through the comforting gauze of pity or condescension or easy answers. As we move backwards through his story, approaching the events that moved him from one set of life possibilities to another, tracing the steps that brought him to where he ended up, the sense of sadness and waste increase and the sense of the real mystery of human lives never goes away. What should we do to help such damaged people? Masters offers no easy answers; the resources needed are enormous, and the longer they've been on the street the more resources they need and the less the likelihood any real change will be effected. But the ethics of shrugging our shoulders and doing nothing are worse.
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