On the long, crowded shelf of addiction memoirs Beautiful Boy is more notable for sturdiness and sense than for new insight.... [Still, it] does illustrate how the most clichéd insights into addiction can also be the most accurate. Nothing here is more succinct than what Nic’s little brother says when he tries to explain addiction. “It’s like in cartoons when some character has a devil on one shoulder,” the boy says, “and an angel on the other.”
Janet Maslin - New York Times
David describes his family's ordeal with a lucidity that will undoubtedly help many addicts and their families, providing not only a wealth of factual data but also the steadying assurance that they are not alone in their grief. He eloquently describes the sense of isolation and horror that accompanied his realization of what was happening to Nic, and the help David found in support groups.
Juliet Wittman - Washington Post
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.
(Starred review.) The book originated in a much-lauded New York Times Magazine article, which Sheff here expands in scope, sharing his and Nic's wisdom, missteps, and successes, and the lessons they learned. A must-read for, at the least, anyone in similar straits. —Donna Chavez
"I'll be fine. I've stopped using." That lie is told again and again in this memoir of a father's heartbreaking struggle with his son's addiction to methamphetamines. The clearly charming and talented Nic first tried marijuana in high school and subsequently went through a decade of using, rehabilitation and relapse. Expanding on a 2005 article in the New York Times Magazine, journalist Sheff takes readers along on the grim roller-coaster ride. While on drugs, Nic leads a life of self-destruction, deception and crime. He breaks into the family home to steal money; he lies about where he is and what he is doing; he asks for help but refuses the terms on which it is offered. The effect on Sheff's family is devastating; trying to save his son and also protect his wife (not Nic's mother) and their two young children, the author suffers a near-fatal brain hemorrhage. He applies his research skills to learn everything possible about methamphetamine, what it does to the brain and what treatments are available. The hard truth is that no one really knows what works best in dealing with meth addiction, or even what doesn't work. He didn't cause Nic's addiction, Sheff comes to understand; he can't control it and he can't cure it. Eventually shifting his focus from Nic's recovery to his own, the author goes into therapy to get past his obsession with his son's problems. Whether Nic will recover remains an open question at the book's end, which offers a glimmer of hope, but no promises and no easy answers. 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.
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