Life has not been kind to Mrs Wilson. Her husband of 36 years has divorced her and left her to clean up the mess he made of her life (literally and figuratively). One day, when her loneliness has reached its paramount, she finds an abandoned baby made out of glass. Thinking her prayers have been answered (and apparently not wondering how this on earth this was scientifically possible) she takes the child home and raises it for her own. However, she soon learns that the path of parenthood is not smooth, but littered with anxiety and heartache…
‘Shatterboy’ is a very conventional fairy tale at its core; we have the mysterious magical child found in the woods (or recycling centre in this case), the adoption by the childless adult, the magic growing as the story progresses, the moral at the end and, most significantly, the casual acceptance of the fantastical. However, in spite of how fantastical the events of the plot are, the world it’s set in is extremely realistic.
It’s the strange combination of realism with the fantastical that can make this story hard to swallow. The reason you accept the strangeness and leaps of logics in fairy tales is because they take place in a fantastical world; a world ‘far, far away’ from ours ‘once upon a time’, where fairy godmothers appear and animals talk and no one seems to question this.
In ‘Shatterboy’, because the world is so realistic, the fact that everyone is so nonplussed by the existence of a living human made out of glass is really distracting. I kept on thinking ‘for goodness sake, get this thing tested at a lab’, so my immersion was shattered the first time around and didn’t enjoy it.
The trick with ‘Shatterboy’ is to go in realising that this is typical fairy tale in a modern setting, it runs on fairy tale logic, and the existence of shatterboy will never be explained because its not meant to be; ‘Shatterboy’ is an allegory.
The moral of the story is ‘its dangerous to wrap your child in cotton wool’ and the story conveys it well (providing you just read it as an allegory and don’t question its internal logic). It’s no accident that the woman met the child after the break down of the most important relationship in her life, and clearly the bond she forms with the child is co dependent as a result. Even if the moral ‘you can’t cling onto your children too tightly’ feels a little heavy handed, the way the mother’s over protective is shown to be damaging to the child is very well done.
In short, the pitfall of being overprotective is a pitfall that most parents have probably felt close to falling into at one point in their life. ‘Shatterboy’ is worth the download and is a quick, enjoyable story to read on the train home.
3 parental breakdowns out of 5