Janie Ryan is born to an alcoholic, drug abusing teenage mother. To Iris' credit she decides to keep the baby, but what a life she brings her into. Janie comes home from the hospital to her grandmother's council house, but this arrangement doesn't last long. A huge fight between Iris and her mother puts mother and baby on the street on a cold night. Frankie, Iris' brother, is close to her, but he won't take sides when their mother is involved.
Mother and baby find a short respite in a woman's shelter, but then move on to a house in one of the worst districts of Aberdeen. Here her mother meets up with Tony Hogan. Hogan has money and gives the family treats, but he's also a violent drug dealer who abuses her mother. The small family moves through a succession of B&Bs and council properties as Janie becomes a teenager and like all teenagers fights with her mother. The ending is moving and full of hope, but will Janie truly be able to overcome her background?
I found this book very realistic and very hard to read. Janie is an attractive character. She loves her mother and sticks by her when things are difficult. (Although there is one scene in which as a young child she is taken into care and develops an attachment to the woman in charge to the point of wishing she could stay there always.) Iris is a typical self-centered addict. Her redeeming virtue is that she loves Janie and tries to protect her although it means taking more abuse herself.
The book doesn't really have a plot. It is the odyssey of a mother and child through the bottom levels of society. The interest is sustained by rooting for Janie to succeed and not turn out like her mother.
I recommend this book if you want a realistic look at poverty in England and that translates into similar situations in the US. However, it's a hard book to read because it is so realistic.
I reviewed this book for Net Galley.