Today I am sharing an extract for Narcissm For Beginners by Martine McDonagh as part of the Blog Tour by Anne at Random Things Tours. I have a fabulous extract that gives you a taste of what this book is about. You can buy a copy in various formats from AMAZON UK and it is published by Unbounders
Longlisted for the 2017 Guardian Not the Booker Prize
Meet Sonny Anderson as he tips headlong into adulthood. Sonny doesn’t remember his mother’s face; he was kidnapped at age five by his father, Guru Bim, and taken to live in a commune in Brazil. Since the age of ten, Sonny has lived in Redondo Beach, California, with his guardian Thomas Hardiker. Brits think he’s an American, Americans think he’s a Brit.
When he turns 21, Sonny musters the courage to travel alone to the UK in an attempt to leave a troubled past behind, reunite with his mother and finally learn the truth about his childhood. With a list of people to visit, a whole lot of attitude and five mysterious letters from his guardian, Sonny sets out to learn the truth. But is it a truth he wants to hear?
Narcissism for Beginners is a fresh, witty and humane take on the struggle to make sense of growing up.
Turning twenty-one, not much about me changed, physically speaking. I didn’t grow any taller. I didn’t grow any fatter. Pinch me and you’ll find no additional flesh on these bones. Even if we were the sole survivors of a plane wreck, you wouldn’t eat me for dinner.
But nothing stayed the same either. My name grew longer, officially at least, and my bank balance got bigger – MUCH bigger. I have a bona fide Brit passport now and I’m not so sure where home is any more.
Who am I? Good question. I started out as Sonny Anderson. Now my official name is Sonny Anderson Agelaste-Bim, but I still go by Sonny Anderson. Your son. Twenty-one-year-old recovering addict and multi-millionaire. Pleased to (not) meet you.
Almost exactly one month ago, I hit the big Two-One. Back then – because man, it already feels like a lifetime ago – home was Redondo Beach, aka RB, Southern California, SoCal, where, as you know already, I lived since age eleven under the guardianship of one Thomas Hardiker. The word guardian puts me in mind of those sentry guys at the gates of Buckingham Palace, staring into the middle distance from under the weight of a big bearskin hat. Keeping the real world out while thinking about pizza or football, or measuring time by the movement of the sun. Whatever. Maybe they really are doing those things. From an outsider’s point of view, they look like one man trying to keep a whole world of crap away just by standing still, and that’s a massive job, right? Well, that’s the job Thomas took on when he took charge of me. You still need to thank him for that.
At school, nobody knew Thomas wasn’t my dad, mainly because no one ever cared to ask, even though we were a grown man and a young boy with completely different names, living together under one roof. If they had asked, I probably would have said, to maintain the enigma and to keep the story short, that Anderson is my mom’s name, which is the truth anyway, right? If they then asked about you directly, which of course they never did – about why you weren’t around – my story was that you died when I was small; I figured that would be a great conversation-stopper, which it was until this girlfriend at USC, my alma mater – we’ll call her Anna – wanted to know everything, all the time, all the stuff I didn’t even know myself. The only way to stop the questions was to dump her.
My twenty-first was never going to be your regular limo-riding fake-ID- burning drunken barhopping orgy. I indulged in all that shit way back and already outgrew it. Not so for the majority of my dishonourable collegiate peers, however. Senior year at USC was one protracted twenty-first birthday party, one after the other after the other, paid for by the *guilty *nostalgic *overindulgent (*delete as appropriate) parents of my self-entitled co-equals.
In one of his books, Gladwell (you know who I mean, right?) talks about October-born kids doing better in school than kids born later in the academic year. He gives various explanations for this phenomenon that I don’t remember now (my memory is shot), but I do have a theory of my own that he missed. My theory is this: those kids, the September-October babies, also do better because they get all that woohoo jazzhands ‘I’m legal’ crap over and done with right at the start of Senior year. By Thanksgiving they’re so bored of it all they elect to sit out the ongoing mayhem, thereby maintaining maximum brain functionality through their final semester and performing well at the appropriate time. Any time, Malcolm, any time.
My birthday (as you may or may not recall) is June 6th, which means I didn’t turn twenty-one until after graduation, so according to Gladwell’s theory I should score about as far off the high-achieving-October-baby list as it gets, but I was the anomaly: I’d come out the other side of the whole NA thing by then, and sat out the shenanigans with the high-achievers. And as a result I did okay. I’m proud of my GPA, naturally, but I won’t say what I got because that would be bragging and unBritish.
Personal background info. Loud noises make me flinch, and many, many much quieter ones, like kissy sucky mouth-noises, make me want to punch the wall, or the faces emitting the above-mentioned noises. Strangers at the door make me nervous. Random conversation in the street makes me suspicious. Even the smallest change to my routine needs to be – maybe I should say needed to be because I like to think that recent revelations have transformed me – introduced slowly, over days, weeks, or ideally, never. Thomas, aforementioned guardian, knows better than anyone how much I hate change in general and surprises in particular. But even Thomas and his imaginary bearskin hat couldn’t hold back the revolutionary tsunami that crashed through the walls of my existence on the day I turned twenty-one. Au contraire, it was Thomas who set it in motion.
About the Author:
Martine McDonagh’s latest novel, Narcissism for Beginners, is longlisted for the 2018 People’s Book Prize and in 2017 for the Guardian Not The Booker Prize. It is published in Germany as Familie und andere Trostpreise (Family and other Consolation Prizes).
Her first novel, I Have Waited and You Have Come, was described as ‘cataclysmically brilliant’ by author Elizabeth Haynes, and praised in the Guardian and Red magazine. Martine had a successful career in the music industry as an artist manager and devised and ran the MA Creative Writing & Publishing at West Dean College in Sussex.
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