Me Mam. Me Dad. Me.
Written by Malcolm Duffy
Published by Zephyr
Publication date: 5th April 2018
Summary (from Goodreads):
Humorous and heartbreaking debut novel with the fresh, funny, honest voice of a 14-year-old Geordie lad recounting the trials and tribulations of family life and finding first love.
Danny’s mam has a new boyfriend. Initially, all is good – Callum seems nice enough, and Danny can’t deny he’s got a cool set up; big house, fast car, massive TV, and Mam seems to really like him.
But cracks begin to show, and they’re not the sort that can be easily repaired. As Danny witnesses Mam suffer and Callum spiral out of control he goes in search of his dad.
The Dad he’s never met.
Set in Newcastle and Edinburgh, this supremely readable coming-of-age drama tackles domestic violence head on, but finds humour and hope in the most unlikely of places.
I am delighted to be part of the blog tour for this important book! It is really refreshing to read a book written in ‘dialect’ and set somewhere outside of London, New York and Paris! Danny’s voice shines through from this first page, drawing you into his life and his decisions as he faces a situation where he cannot help his mother to escape a nasty situation. Throughout the book he is faced with tough choices, choices that an adult might struggle with, but he is forced to do the best he can with the few resources he has.
Today I am lucky enough to be joined by the author, Malcolm Duffy, as he gives us a bit of insight into his characters and how they develop throughout the book. I was fascinated to read this because I think that the grey areas between wrong and right are infinite. We make decision every single day about what to do; sometimes we regret those decisions or would have made a different decision if we had understood all the variables. In many cases, others judge your choices and it can feel like you can never ‘win’.
Is it ever right to do bad to do good?
If you had to make a choice between two bad outcomes, which would you choose?
For example, in the famous ‘trolley problem’, a cart is heading down some tracks towards people who are trapped. If you do nothing, five people die. If you pull a lever near you, the cart will divert, killing one person. Do you pull the lever?
Are you sure that you would make the right choice?
Is it ever right to do bad to do good?
We’re a pretty good bunch on the whole. We recycle our plastic. We put money in charity boxes. We tidy away the dishes. We put litter in bins. Every day we perform a hundred little actions that define us as decent human beings. We carry out most of these things without even thinking. They’re part of who we are and what we do. But what happens when to achieve something good, you have to do something bad?
No-one would condone speeding, but what if you had to get a sick child to hospital quickly. There’s no time to wait for an ambulance. Would you obey that 30mph speed limit? Maybe. Maybe not. The choice is a difficult one. The speed limits are there for a reason, to protect you, your passengers, other road users and pedestrians. The need to get that child to hospital could easily over-ride these considerations. But if you were to race through the streets you may be forced to consider – is this an act of kindness or selfishness?
To achieve something good, is it okay to do something bad?
That is the dilemma faced by the characters in Me Mam. Me Dad. Me.
When writing the novel I wanted Danny, his mam and dad to be faced with extremely difficult decisions, the sort that would keep you awake at night, wondering if you are doing the right thing. If the choices were too easy they could be made quickly or dismissed as inconsequential. They needed to be the sort of actions for which there was no simple answer. They needed to provide a real moral dilemma.
I didn’t want to write a preachy story, but I did want the reader to think about the decisions each character makes. Whether they agree with them or not is up to them. But what I’d like people to take out is that characters are never black and white (and that includes mad keen Newcastle United fans like Danny). Good people do bad things. Bad people do good things. It’s just the way things are.
Danny faces one of the biggest problems in the story. He desperately wants to help his mam who’s being physically abused by her partner. A very good goal. But to achieve this he knows that he’ll have to do things that are clearly bad. He has to lie to his mam, his girlfriend, his teacher. He takes money that’s earmarked for a school trip and spends it on trains and taxis. And finally, the most drastic act of all, he wants his mam’s partner to be killed. These aren’t the sort of qualities you’d want in a teenage boy. But Danny believes that unless he carries them out his mam will die. He discovers that two mams a week are killed by their partners. He doesn’t want his own mam to be one of these statistics, and so he decides to act. In his mind the good outweighs the bad.
Danny’s mam also does something we may consider a bad decision. She stays with Callum, a man who is physically and verbally abusive towards her, a leopard who shows no sign of changing his spots. Why would she do this? It’s because in her mind she believes that something good can come out of it. Danny can have the house and the lifestyle she can never give him. To have the good, she is prepared to put up with the bad. I’m not condoning what she does, but it is one of the reasons why some women stay with abusive partners- for the financial security they’re given. Danny’s mam is not alone in making a very tough decision for something she feels is right.
Danny’s dad is also faced with a dilemma. His son has pleaded with him to sort out Callum, but to do this he’s going to risk everything he’s got up in Edinburgh -a job, a girlfriend, a flat. Stevie finally decides that he can’t let things carry on the way they’re going and decides to head south to deal with Callum. To do something good, he’s going to have to do something bad.
The characters all have hard choices to make. Whether they did the right or wrong thing isn’t for me to say.
Life is rarely clear cut. At some times in our lives we’ll all be faced with dilemmas, though hopefully not as dramatic as these, when we have to ask ourselves- are we prepared to do something and live with the consequences, knowing that our actions may turn us into the villain of the piece?
And if we are, what sort of person does that make us- a weak one, or a strong one, a generous one, or a self-centered one?
Like Danny, his mam and his dad, the only way to resolve this is to answer one final question- did the end justify the means?
Malcolm Duffy. September 2018
(Thank you very much to Malcolm for his thoughtful guest post, to Jade for inviting me to be part of the blog tour and to Zephyr Books for my review copy)
Don’t miss the other stops on this blog tour:
Thanks for reading!