Wow! I loved this book. But I should preface that with a couple of things. I love books that are dark and gritty and this book is one of them. Books where the characters are pretty well damaged and/or act in reprehensible ways that are only comprehensible by understanding the breadth of the history of the character in question.

In this way, Eddie The Kid very much reminds me of another of my favorite books I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb. Like I Know This Much Is True, Eddie The Kid is the story of the small (and large) violences carried out by the ones you love in a setting that should serve as respite from the horrors of the rest of the world – ie. the family. It also deals with what it takes to overcome the inherited patterns and what happens when characters frequently fail. Trigger warning: there is child/spousal abuse in this book and while not extensive and lurid (the other does not linger over the blood or anything like that) it is there. And what is good and real about this book is the perpetrators are not absolved. We as readers understand the situation and the dark inheritance of abuse but are not encouraged to forgive the characters in question. This is not a book about redemption but rather a book that grapples with your own terrible acts and all the shit you learn prior to ever even being able to seek redemption.

The whole story is told through the lens of Eddie’s revolutionary politics. Eddie is acting out the familial lessons of abuse and radical politics he learned from his (abusive) father, Stewart and his mother, Jessica. Another parallel with I Know This Much Is True is that Eddie’s sister, Esther, suffers from some sort of mental illness that may or may not have something to do with the abuse she (especially) suffered as a child.

The Stewart character specifically reminds me of one of my other favorite books – Horseman, Pass By, by Larry McMurtry. In that book one of the main characters, Hud (played by Paul Newman in a movie of the same name) is such a monstrous, larger than life character that while he only appears in the book maybe 2 or 3 times, his presence colors everything else in the story (the movie is a bit different but worth seeing). Stewart is the same in this book in that way. Though he appears in the book more than a couple of times he is still more present even in his absence. Stewart, like many abusers, is complex containing both positive and loving characteristics as well as intense, violent anger. (As an aside, a great song that highlights this contradictory complexity is Pale Green Things by the Mountain Goats. It is the true story of an abused child (now an adult) finding out that his abusive step father has died and, upon hearing the news, the first thought he has is not of the abuse but of a nice day him and his step-father had spent together. Very poignant.)

Ultimately this is a book about how messed up the most well-intentioned humans can be. A book about how someone committed to the revolutionary emancipation of mankind can then beat his girlfriend/children mercilessly. It’s a book that explores those contradictions without ever making either of them the defining point in the character’s being. The humanity of the oppressor and the (oppressor as) victim are maintained and understood even while not being celebrated.
I’m not going to really go into any plot points or spoilers but if you like any of those books (or the Mountain Goats song) I mentioned above then this book is for you. Also if you were doing any sort of political organizing or anti-war work during the build up to the Iraq war in 2002 – 2003 then the anti-war organizing and revolutionary politics that form the backdrop to this narrative (while being specifically British) will be fun and exciting to you as well.

I don’t know. I loved this book and think it is an amazing first novel from someone who I had only otherwise read non-fiction from.