Synopses & Reviews
A remarkable memoir from the best-selling author of Friday Night Lights
and Three Nights in August
Buzz Bissingers twins were born three minutes—and a world—apart. Gerry, the older one, is a graduate student at Penn, preparing to become a teacher. His brother Zach has spent his life attending special schools. Hell never drive a car, or kiss a girl, or live by himself. He is a savant, challenged by serious intellectual deficits but also blessed with rare talents: an astonishing memory, a dazzling knack for navigation, and a reflexive honesty that can make him both socially awkward and surprisingly wise.
Buzz realized that while he had always been an attentive father, he didnt really understand what it was like to be Zach. So one summer night Buzz and Zach hit the road to revisit all the places they have lived together during Zachs twenty-four years. Zach revels in his memories, and Buzz hopes this journey into their shared past will bring them closer and reveal to him the mysterious workings of his sons mind and heart. The trip also becomes Buzz's personal journey, yielding revelations about his own parents, the price of ambition, and its effect on his twins.
As father and son journey from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, they see the best and worst of America and each other. Ultimately, Buzz gains a new and uplifting wisdom, realizing that Zachs worldview has a sturdy logic of its own: a logic that deserves the greatest respect. And with the help of Zachs twin, Gerry, Buzz learns an even more vital lesson about Zach: character transcends intellect. We come to see Zach as he truly is: patient, fearless, perceptive, kind—a man of excellent character.
"Sheff's memoir offers his side of the story about his son Nic's downfall into drug and alcohol abuse. Anthony Heald opts for a slightly theatrical performance, which distances the listener from what should be an extremely personal and emotional tale. While never over-the-top, Heald's reading is more grounded in the world of fiction than nonfiction. His vocal interpretations of characters are improbable and the dialogue comes off as unrealistic. A touching story gets lost in translation from word to mouth. A Houghton Mifflin hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 30, 2007). (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An honest, hopeful book, coming at a propitious moment in the meth epidemic." Publishers Weekly
"An excellent book that all parents can relate to whatever their children's situation." Library Journal Starred
“Those of us who love an addict — or are addicts ourselves — will find BEAUTIFUL BOY a revelation." — Martin Sheen, actor
"A welcome balm to millions…who thought they were making this journey alone."— Armistead Maupin, author of The Night Listener
"This book is going to save a lot of lives, and help heal…hearts." — Anne Lamott, author of Grace (Eventually)
“…moving, timely, and sobering. Its also startlingly beautiful." - Sir Richard Branson, chairman, Virgin Group
“An extraordinary story of pain, perseverance and hope.” — William C. Moyers, author of Broken
“…honest, reflective and deeply moving. BEAUTIFUL BOY is about: truth and healing.” — Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia
"For…any one who has ever wrestled with holding on and letting go.” — Thomas Lynch, author of The Undertaking
“A masterpiece of description and feeling…immediate, informative and heartbreaking.” — Susan Cheever, author of Note Found in a Bottle
"Blunt, tender, sometimes harrowing, and always affecting, Fathers Day is a triumph. Bissinger unfurls the whole fabric of love and pride and heartbreak and salvation that makes a family, with an honesty that will make you gasp."
— Susan Orlean, author of Rin Tin Tin and The Orchid Thief
"Bissinger has the great writers gift of showing us we are not alone. Here he explores the religion all parents share: that our childrens essential goodness will somehow grant them safe passage through a rough world. What a book! Every parent should read it."
— Chris Matthews, host of Hardball and author of Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero "I loved this unflinching, heartbreaking, and ultimately triumphant tale of disability and difference, and what it means to be a father, a son, and a man." — Jennifer Weiner, author of Then Came You and Fly Away Home "Buzz Bissinger's memoir — a paean to his remarkable son — is tender, funny, frightening at moments when love is re-stated; even brave — which memoiristic writing rarely gets the chance to be. It also reads as unflinchingly true, which should give it a long and useful life in the reader's heart." — Richard Ford "Father's Day is the story of a road trip like no other. Searing and heartfelt, this is not just an unforgettable portrait of a father and his son; it is a love story that speaks to the mystery, pain, and exhilaration of being human." — Nathaniel Philbrick, author of Mayflower and The Last Stand
"This brave and beautiful memoir gets at the core of what it means to be a parent — how painful it can be, how scary it can get, and how rewarding it is. By facing a challenge that would try any of us, and beat many of us, Bissinger emerges a better man. He not only finds his son, but himself, and the reader finds something, too. After reading Fathers Day, Ive rethought my assumptions about what makes a successful and worthy life. Ultimately, this is a mesmerizing story about how we can all be better."
— David Sheff, author of Beautiful Boy
"Buzz Bissinger has given completely of himself in this moving book about his son Zach, who was born too small, too soon. There is the father's disappointment and guilt, his confusion and frustration, his wonder and love. That Zach has a twin brother, who grew up unscathed, and that Zach's mind is as divided as his father's emotions, makes the story all that more compelling. Father's Day is wonderfully, achingly written, with all the doubt that tells you how truthful it is."
— Frank Deford, author of The Old Ball Game and The Entitled
"Every father of a special needs child should read this very insightful book."
— Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures and Animals in Translation
"A fiercely honest memoir about the complex hard drive of a son's brain and the balky software of a father's heart. Though his story is singular, Bissinger makes it feel like part of that eternal saga — fathers and sons trying to connect."
— J.R. Moehringer, author of The Tender Bar
"Gorgeous and brutally honest . . . As much as this is a book for parents, who know well the crushing vulnerabilities of the job, it is also a story for grown children who understand what it means to love an imperfect parent. Would that we were all as forgiving as Zach.
Sheff's story tells of his teenage son's addiction to meth, in this real-time chronicle of the shocking descent into substance abuse and the family's gradual emergence into hope.
Sheff's story is a first: a teenager's addiction from the parent's point of view a real-time chronicle of the shocking descent into substance abuse and the gradual emergence into hope.
Before meth, Sheff's son Nic was a varsity athlete, honor student, and award-winning journalist. After meth, he was a trembling wraith who stole money from his eight-year-old brother and lived on the streets. With haunting candor, Sheff traces the first subtle warning signs, the denial (by both child and parents), the three A.M. phone calls (is it Nic? the police? the hospital?), the attempts at rehab, and, at last, the way past addiction. He shows us that, whatever an addict's fate, the rest of the family must care for each other too, lest they become addicted to addiction.
Meth is the fastest-growing drug in the United States, as well as the most addictive and the most dangerous wreaking permanent brain damage faster than any other readily available drug. It has invaded every region and demographic in America. This book is the first that treats meth and its impact in depth. But it is not just about meth. Nic's addiction has wrought the same damage that any addiction will wreak. His story, and his father's, are those of any family that contains an addict and one in three American families does.
What had happened to my beautiful boy? To our family? What did I do wrong? Those are the wrenching questions that haunted every moment of David Sheffs journey through his son Nics addiction to drugs and tentative steps toward recovery. Before Nic Sheff became addicted to crystal meth, he was a charming boy, joyous and funny, a varsity athlete and honor student adored by his two younger siblings. After meth, he was a trembling wraith who lied, stole, and lived on the streets. David Sheff traces the first subtle warning signs: the denial, the 3 A.M. phone calls (is it Nic? the police? the hospital?), the rehabs. His preoccupation with Nic became an addiction in itself, and the obsessive worry and stress took a tremendous toll. But as a journalist, he instinctively researched every avenue of treatment that might save his son and refused to give up on Nic.
Beautiful Boy is a fiercely candid memoir that brings immediacy to the emotional rollercoaster of loving a child who seems beyond help.
The best-selling author of Friday Night Lights and 3 Nights in August journeys across country and into the psyche of his son and traveling companion, where he finds not only the remarkable skills and debilities known as savantism, but a host of qualities we should all emulate.
About the Author
DAVID SHEFF is the author of several books, including the #1 New York Times-bestselling memoir Beautiful Boy. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Wired, and many other publications. His ongoing research and reporting on the science of addiction earned him a place on Time magazine's list of the World's Most Influential People. Sheff and his family live in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Table of Contents
Bon Voyage 17
Blue Box 34
Is That All There Is? 50
Failure to Forget 65
Embassy Suites! 79
Lost in Milwaukee 93
Cardinals and Cookies 107
Ill Do Anything 127
Scene of the Crime 134
Mom and Dad 162
Hollywood Blue 178
Viva Las Vegas! 190
Coming Into Los Angeles 200
Picture Perfect 210
Zach and Gerry 221
Reality Bites 227
Zachs Acknowledgments 240
Buzzs Acknowledgments 242
Authors Note 244