Publisher: Legend Press | Publication date: 1st April 2016
Poignant, emotionally charged, and with many a dark corner, Armadillos shows how life can fail just about anyone given the right, but mainly wrong, chance set of circumstances.
Born into a Texan farming family who practise immorally abusive entertainment at the expense of the subservient members of their unit makes for an uncomfortable reading experience, and yet it was a book I read straight through in one day – it would appear that fifteen year old Aggie grabbed hold of me with both hands and I couldn’t bring myself to let her go.
This first person narrative in a regional dialect offers a personal account of this young girl’s life, who is quite accepting of her current dire circumstances, until one day she walks out the door, passed the landlocked boat that rots a little more each year, and she just kept on walking.
With only the clothes on her back, Aggie uses her limited wily ways to entice rides from the unsuspecting public to place as much distance between her and the farm as she can, and yet she has no idea where she’s going, only a desire to not return home. Her implanted memories of past events are recalled on route until the impression of the life she has been fed over time dissipates onto the harsh reality on the street.
Constantly looking over her shoulder, running from one disastrous situation to the next, she slowly engages in a steep learning curve to not have to rely on others to further her progression. No matter how small her goal, until she can confront her past, present, and what the future holds, she will never take hold life’s reigns to arrive at the place she needs to be.
Her temporary survival technique sees her befriending a catalogue of fascinating and troubled characters, each having their own terrors to keep them company. I grew especially fond of Marj (initially known as The Beast Lady), whose aggression is a force of its own, but whose dream is to manufacture and sell her hand crafted souvenirs to tourists to raise much needed funds. She believes the little Crucifixes and Armadillos she creates from blown out tyres is her trip out of this hellhole of a life. And then there’s the road kill she lovingly places in the back of her car until she can find a suitable place to lay them to rest. She’s goes out of her way to look out for the little creatures, even if no one else does.
The majority of Aggie’s acquaintances are also burdened by common fear; they hide behind the only protective armour they have, which is retreating into their own shells to prevent the disclosure of any potential weak spot. One by one these lone survivors unwittingly fill the void in Aggie’s young life, even if they choose to move on, disappoint her, or threaten to rock the boat at some point.
Despite its desperate nature, Armadillos is an encouraging story of hope, even if it is tormentingly evasive at times. This is a hard hitting novel, and one that will stay with you for some time.
Everybody knows that life don’t give a sh!t who you are. Life throws you a curve ball any old time it feels like it, no matter your size, colour or creed…
(Huge thanks, as ever, to Legend Press for providing a paperback proof copy of this title, as part of the Legend 100 Club. So far, every read has been quite unique and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next!)
(Courtesy of Amazon UK)
Aggie is fifteen, a ‘sub’ from a ‘sub’ family, one of Texas’ downtrodden. Her father and brother enact that ‘sub’-ness on her, week in, week out. She has only the vaguest notion that there is something wrong with the abuse she endures and instead dreams of the outside world.
And then one day, Aggie walks out, and like the armadillos that flourish in Texas’ barren landscape, she is a survivor…
In her escape, she gravitates to those who are just as maltreated as her. They offer Aggie the sense of family, albeit a thoroughly dysfunctional one, that she’s been searching for. But when she gets embroiled in a crisis involving stolen money, Aggie soon realises there are some problems you can’t run away from.
(Courtesy of Amazon UK)
Pauline trained as an actor and her first professional job was playing Lizzie in the film of Irvine Welsh’s novel, Trainspotting. After having a baby, Pauline completed her first stage play, Promise. Her second play, King of the Gypsies, played at the Edinburgh fringe, and then toured. She then enrolled on the MLitt Creative Writing programme at Glasgow University where Armadillos was awarded the Sceptre Prize for Fiction.
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