Distortion

By Gautam Malkani

book cover

One young carer, three identities - and the mother of all shitstorms

Publication date: September 2018
Choose book format:

Unbound Exclusives


About the book

Meet Dillon – a high-functioning fuck-up otherwise known both as Dylan or Dhilan. The spelling of the 19-year-old’s name and its corresponding online identity depends on whether he’s being a libidinal undergrad at the London School of Economics, the celibate CEO of his own student tech start-up, or caring for his perpetually-terminally-ill mum beside her latest prospective death-bed. None of these identities are imaginary. All his lives are equally real and equally ridiculous. He’s been his mother’s primary carer since the age of ten and together they’ve sat through nine years of mother-son marriage guidance therapy and pre-bereavement bereavement counselling.

"On the plus side, being Mum's carer has been sweet for my career. Kept me off the streets, made me do good in my GCSEs, got me into some big boss uni. Today's lecture's about something I already taught myself – I blitzed the whole reading list the last time she was rotting in hospital. My brain like a Tampax for textbooks and the side-effects of her Tamoxifen tablets. Whatever it takes, OK. Whatever grades I needed to attain for her to carry on smiling and fighting and live-blogging parents' evening. My positive exam results = her negative test results = forget fucking chemo, just intravenously administer my academic accomplishments. Well, good for me, yeh. All this shit's been good for me. I ain't ever told Mum this, but I even tried getting my ass into Cambridge – after all, that would've been one way to justify going to uni outside London. One way to justify living in student halls and draft-dodge having to hold her tighter than Spandex every morning-sickness morning."

But although Dillon has worked his Oedipal bollocks off to escape to uni, there’s no getting away from all the complicated family-related crap, with its lashings of intangible guilt and all-too-tangible bodily fluids. Like many young carers, he has kept his twisted and distorted domestic life a secret from his friends – and even from his long-suffering girlfriend, Ramona. His various double lives have now grown hardwired, leaving Dillon stuck somewhere between love and resentment and fixated by the physical horror of his mother’s sickness in order to drown out the emotional pain. But the appearance on campus of two strange men who seem to know everything about all Dillon’s different identities forces him to track down his shady and long estranged father. And that’s when the shit gets really real...

There are estimated to be anywhere between 200,000 and 700,000 young carers in the UK – a hidden army of children or teenagers who are looking after a sick or incapacitated parent. This is the story of one of them. Thank you for your support.

More information