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.
"Expanding on his New York Times Magazine article, Sheff chronicles his son's downward spiral into addiction and the impact on him and his family. A bright, capable teenager, Nic began trying mind- and mood-altering substances when he was 17. In months, use became abuse, then abuse became addiction. By the time Sheff knew of his son's condition, Nic was strung out on meth, the highly potent stimulant. While his son struggles to get clean, his second wife and two younger children are pulled helplessly into the drama. Sheff, as the parent of an addict, cycles through denial and acceptance and resistance. The author was already a journalist of considerable standing when this painful story began to unfold, and his impulse for detail serves him personally as well as professionally: there are hard, solid facts about meth and the kinds of havoc it wreaks on individuals, families and communities both urban and rural. His journey is long and harrowing, but Sheff does not spare himself or anyone else from keen professional scrutiny any more than he was himself spared the pains and joys of watching a loved one struggling with addiction and recovery. Real recovery creates and can itself be its own reward; this is an honest, hopeful book, coming at a propitious moment in the meth epidemic." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An excellent book that all parents can relate to whatever their children's situation." Library Journal
"A clear picture of what meth addiction does to a user and those who love him that may help other families better cope with this growing problem." Kirkus Reviews
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.
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.
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