Looking back to the beginning

Stuart: A Life Backwards, by Alexander Masters (HarperCollins, $26.99):

Proving that the rules are sometimes made to be broken, and that sometimes it isn’t always best to begin at the beginning, this book tells the life story of Stuart Shorter backwards.

Shorter was a homeless man who had a tough life as the illegitimate son of gypsy and a barmaid who he inherited his father’s Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy. Later, he was sexually abused by his brother and a babysitter and after being put into a children’s home he was targeted by another paedophile.

He spent time in jail and it was after this he became homeless. However, he eventually became an advocate for the homeless and did all he could to bring attention to the problem.

This book takes us from the man the author met — thief, hostage-taker, psycho and street raconteur — back to a happy 12-year-old boy.

Along the way we learn to understand some of the turns taken by Stuart on his journey through life and wonder what might have been if he’d taken different paths.

This is a moving story with touches of sadness and a lot of genuine humour.

That Shorter’s story ended so suddenly and so badly is the biggest tragedy of all.

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