Book Review: Trash by Andy Mulligan

trash andy mulligan Book Review: Trash by Andy Mulligan


When my husband and I were holidaying in Indonesia last year we went out for an early morning walk along the roads and fruit plantations. As we did, we were surprised by the amount of activity going on around us: dozens of people, from the very young to the very old, were picking through the rubbish in the gutters or that had accumulated in stacks around the orchards. They were collecting small pieces of salveagable materialtin cans, bits of plastic, paperthat could be returned for a small sum. What struck us most about these people was that they seemed to be part of an endless cycle: living at barely a subsistance level, and with little access to health care or education, how was anyone supposed to rise above their present situation?

Its this exactly that Andy Mulligans Trash'examines. Set at the Behala rubbish dump, it follows the lives of three boys whose lives are inextricably tied to the tip. From the outset, the novel underscores the continuing cycle of poverty and lack of opportunity for these boys and their families: they live there, work there, and are so infused with the grot and grime of the tip that its impossible for anyone to see them as anything other than tip boys. But despite these circumstances, they exhibit an utterly dogged determination to get through their days and to survive. Its a sort of curious contrast against the apathy of western cultures, and at the same time it points to a huge disconnect between the ruling classes and the poorest classes of this fictitious society: where life is meaningless to those who have everything, its immensely important to those who have nothing.

These issues are explored with beautiful subtlety as the narrative takes a turn that while inevitable, is utterly welcomed by the reader. Raphael, who spends his days systematically working through the new loads of rubbish dumped at the tip to little avail (the majority of the material they paw through is euphemistically described as stuppa), finds a wallet. In the wallet is a sum of money that for the boys is astronomical, and a key. When the police arrive at the tip later that day, Raphael realises that his find is worth far more than he initially thought. The boys, then, are faced with a momentous decision: to walk away with the initial sum, or to take a gamble in getting to the bottom of the mystery they appear to be facing.

Of course, there wouldnt be a book if the boys took the blue pill, so the stakes are promptly raised. And what a journey that follows. Mulligan takes us into a world of systemic corruption, flagrant disregard for life, and horrific brutality. But against this desultory backdrop is the determination of Raphael and his friends to not only solve the mystery theyve been saddled with, but also to do what they can to set things to rights.

Trash, despite its darkness, is a surprisingly uplifting read in the vein of Millions'and Holes, and its very moving to watch its characters rally themselves and try and try again to achieve their ends. Theyre a weird example of Pavlovian conditioning working against itself: these kids have faced so much in their lifetimes that no matter how awful that which theyre facing theyre able to overcome it. Behala and the wider context of the book may be location agnostic, but its very, very easy to extrapolate it to Central or South America or to South East Asia, and theres a realism here that chills.'I do feel that the subtlety of the earlier chapters is undermined a little by the additional points of view (and appendix) brought in to clarify and explicate things, and that the ending is a little saccharine, but overall this is a tremendous read.

Rating: ????? (excellent)

Support Read in a Single Sitting by purchasing Trash'from

Amazon | Book Depository UK | Book Depository USA | Booktopia | The Nile

Visit Andy Mulligans website

Other books by Andy Mulligan:

 Book Review: Trash by Andy Mulligan Book Review: Trash by Andy Mulligan Book Review: Trash by Andy Mulligan Book Review: Trash by Andy Mulligan

Related Posts with Thumbnails