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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Child of God
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on 10 July 2017
Typical of this author. Wonderful, stark writing style. Fairly repugnant subject matter. Similar to eg Blood Meridian in its edginess. Recommended.
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on 28 August 2017
A poetic, knowing, postmodern tale of a life revealed through the evisceration of those unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place. Harrowing reflection on life, death and humanity without judgement.
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on 10 February 2009
There were points in this novel when I felt something akin to sympathy for McCarthys' antagonist - which is a fine achievement by the author considering Ballards' many heinous crimes.

Despite the subject matter - which is hardly light, we're in Ed Gein territory - as the other reviewers have alluded to this is a very easy novel to read as a result of McCarthys' writing.

I came to this novel via some of McCarthys' later work - "No Country for Old Men" and "The Road" - and the clarity of his writing stands up perfectly well in comparison to these two novels.
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on 8 November 2008
A bleak and realistic tale of how an outcast becomes a serial killer and a necrophile in the hills and woods of East Tennessee. This is tight, dark and poetic writing. Lester Ballard's descent into horrific perversion is told with precise and evocative language. Nothing fancy. No over-indulgence or gratuitous detail for shock-value's sake. Just a clear and strong depiction of Ballard's almost numb mindset and what-he-did mid the snows of one winter.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 June 2015
This novella, less than 200 pages, must rank as one of the most disturbing books ever written. The third of the author’s books, written in 1973, it deals with misogyny, voyeurism, rape, murder and necrophilia [‘“a crazed gymnast laboring over a cold corpse’], amongst others. Whilst it clearly will be offputting for many readers it contains much fine writing and the shocking events are never presented in a gratuitous manner.

Set in the Southern Appalachians in the 1960s, it describes the story of Lester Ballard whom we meet on the second page, ‘small, unclean, unshaven. He moves in the dry chaff among the dust and slats of sunlight with a constrained truculence. Saxon and Celtic bloods. A child of God much like yourself perhaps.’ objecting to the enforced sale of his failed farm.

During the course of the book we learn about Lester’s life and past, orphaned after his mother ran off and his father killed himself, from two external narrator and the voices of acquaintances. He has no friends and ‘they say he never was right after his daddy killed hisself’. A failure in every respect, he cannot farm successfully and spends his time drinking moonshine with the local dumpkeeper and ogling his daughters, named ‘out of an old medical dictionary gleaned from the rubbish he picked…. Urethra, Cerebella, Hernia Sue.’

Bit by bit we see Lester’s isolation and alienation leading to a descent into evil, a pathway determined and brought about by the society that stole his home and sold it to Greer, an outsider from ‘up in Grainger County. Not sayin nothin against him but he was’. There are no prizes for guessing how Lester deals with this situation. He transfers responsibility by claiming that ‘all the trouble I was ever was in ... was caused by whisky or women or both.’

McCarthy suggests that, in different circumstances, his central character might have directed his limited talents constructively, ‘Coming up the mountain through the blue winter twilight among great boulders and the ruins of giant trees prone in the forest he wondered at such upheaval. Disorder in the woods, trees down, new paths needed. Given charge Ballard would have made things more orderly in the woods and in men’s souls.’ At times like these it is less easy just to write him off as does one character, saying 'You ain't even a man. You're just a crazy thing.' Many of the characters in this book can be included within the ‘the sick and the shut-in’.

Thrown off his land Lester moves to a shack but after it has burned down he ends up living in a series of underground caves. In each case we see him pathetically seeking to recreate elements of his original home and of a ‘normal’ family life. Lester’s independent life outside the boundaries of social regulation and control comes to terrify the locals and contrasts with his life before the farm failed and in the final part of the book where he returns to society but in a very controlled fashion. In the end though, society exacts its ghoulish revenge.

The quality of the writing, occasional dark humour and generally short snappy chapters help the reader to empathise with a truly awful character and to appreciate the power of a gun that both helps Lester to gain prizes at a fair, and so be appreciated by those who previously ignored him, and to kill, wound and rape. It is hardly surprising that the only character that Lester can empathise with is the mentally and cranially deformed son, ‘a hugeheaded bald and slobbering primate’, of one of the dumpsters daughters, described only as ‘the girl’, and both characters come to an unfortunate end. The child shares with Lester a complete absence of moral understanding and awareness.

A terrifying dreamworld that is all too realistic, as we know from the media.
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on 8 October 2014
Cormac. Need I say more.
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on 24 May 2010
A sculpture of words about a little sad monster, a horror story that moves the readers beyond any expectation and shows what can happen to people lost beyond the boundaries of humanity. Don't expect a film adaptation for this book: few filmmakers have a similar eye for visual details that show what goes on not only outside, but also inside people's mind; few screenwriters have a similar ear for dialogues that recreate characters, places and situations with such a spare and eloquent use of words. Imagine what kind of book lesser writers could write about such a sad and terrible story, and then compare it to this masterful achievement to have the full measure of the talent, depth and range of this great writer. A real classic to put directly on the highest scaffold of the bookcase.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 June 2014
This was my fourth Cormack McCarthy novel. I gave the others 5 stars. I like the way he shows the darkest corners of humanity and yet gives little glimmers of light. This offers darkness and throws no light. It is a character study of a depraved down and out. But it is short on the study and long on the depravity. I found little justification or insight.
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on 8 March 2013
This 'novella' is a work of pure art.I have read many short books in my life, Hemingways Old man and the sea and Steinbecks Of mice and men spring to mind but I have never read better than this.I can imagine Cormac Mccarthy being an admirer of Steinbecks work but if he was it ended there, he has his own inimitable style that grips, holds and has the reader staring off into space to digest the wonderment of what he reads. Child of God is easily good enough to have romped away with the Nobel prize for literature but so are other of his works, its a mystery that it still eludes him but the public do not agree, an ollivietta typewriter which he had typed most of his books on was auctioned for charity, the auctioneers estimate of 10 to 15,000 dollars was made to look a bit daft when it went for a quarter of a million. After you read this book you will promise yourself to repeat the pleasure in the not too distant future, Cormac Mccarthy is our own modern day Homer.
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on 4 May 2010
Inured to the ever-promised and never-delivered 'brilliance' and 'shockingly compelling' blurbs of UK crime fiction, I thought I would go in a completely different direction. I read four books by McCarthy, this one, 'Outer Dark', also 'The Orchard Keeper and 'Blood Meridian'. What a revelation! Entirely different and refreshing. Dark, brutal, unforgiving, actually compelling (such an over-used word, and so often applied to books that are about as 'compelling' as the proverbial paint-watching exercise), this was gripping and unputdownable from the very start. It takes a special kind of writer to not only deliver a great story, but also deliver it in language that is very much his/her own, and that makes you stop and view things differently. Can't recommend it highly enough!
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