By Charles Bock
Random House, Hardcover, 9781400066506, 432pp.
Publication Date: January 22, 2008
One Saturday night in Las Vegas, twelve-year-old Newell Ewing goes out with a friend and doesn’t come home. In the aftermath of his disappearance, his mother, Lorraine, makes daily pilgrimages to her son’s room and tortures herself with memories. Equally distraught, the boy’s father, Lincoln, finds himself wanting to comfort his wife even as he yearns for solace, a loving touch, any kind of intimacy.
As the Ewings navigate the mystery of what’s become of their son, the circumstances surrounding Newell’s vanishing and other events on that same night reverberate through the lives of seemingly disconnected strangers: a comic book illustrator in town for a weekend of debauchery; a painfully shy and possibly disturbed young artist; a stripper who imagines moments from her life as if they were movie scenes; a bubbly teenage wiccan anarchist; a dangerous and scheming gutter punk; a band of misfit runaways. The people of Beautiful Children are “urban nomads,” each with a past to hide and a pain to nurture, every one of them searching for salvation and barreling toward destruction, weaving their way through a neon underworld of sex, drugs, and the spinning wheels of chance.
In this masterly debut novel, Charles Bock mixes incandescent prose with devious humor to capture Las Vegas with unprecedented scope and nuance and to provide a glimpse into a microcosm of modern America. Beautiful Children is an odyssey of heartache and redemption–heralding the arrival of a major new writer.
Advance praise for Beautiful Children
“Charles Bock has delivered an anxious, angry, honest first novel filled with compassion and clarity. Beautiful Children is fast, violent, sexy and–like a potentially dangerous ride–it could crash at any moment but never does. The language has a rhythm wholly its own–at moments it is stunning, near genius. This book is big and wild–it is as though Bock saved up everything for this moment. A major new talent.”
–A. M. Homes
“Beautiful Children careens from the seedy to the beautiful, the domestic to the epic, all with huge and exacting heart.”
–Jonathan Safran Foer
“Beautiful Children is the best first novel I’ve read in years–certainly the best first novel of our newborn century. Charles Bock has written a masterpiece: tragic, comic, sexy, chilling, far-reaching, and wise–at once an accusation and a consolation, and a lucid portrait of what is happening at the very heart of our culture, and what it means to be a young American today.”
“Bock’s vision and voice create a fictional landscape as corruptly compelling as Vegas, and as beautiful as the illusions its characters cling to for survival. . . . One word: bravo.”
–The New York Times Book Review
“An affecting story . . . truly powerful . . . Beautiful Children Dazzles its readers on almost every page. . . . [Charles Bock] knows how to tug at your heart, and he knows how to make you laugh out loud, often on the same page, sometimes in the same sentence.”
“Wholly original–dirty, fast, and hypnotic. The sentences flicker and skip and whirl, like the neon city Bock writes about. It will change the way you look at Las Vegas.”
“Exceptional . . . [Bock’s] ability to share a deep understanding of America’s million or so lost street kids and their tormented parents gives the book a whiff of greatness. . . . This novel deserves to be read more than once because of the extraordinary importance of its subject matter.”
–The Washington Post Book World
“An anxious, angry, honest first novel filled with compassion and clarity. The language has a rhythm wholly its own–at moments it is stunning, near genius.”
–A. M. Homes
“From start to finish, Bock never stops tantalizing the reader.”
–San Francisco Chronicle
“Rich and compelling . . . Captures the hallucinogenic setting like a fever dream.”
–Los Angeles Times