- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Vintage (June 29, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679728740
- ISBN-13: 978-0679728740
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 289 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Child of God Paperback – June 29, 1993
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"Scuttling down the mountain with the thing on his back he looked like a man beset by some ghast succubus, the dead girl riding him with legs bowed akimbo like a monstrous frog." Child of God must be the most sympathetic portrayal of necrophilia in all of literature. The hero, Lester Ballard, is expelled from his human family and ends up living in underground caves, which he peoples with his trophies: giant stuffed animals won in carnival shooting galleries and the decomposing corpses of his victims. Cormac McCarthy's much-admired prose is suspenseful, rich with detail, and yet restrained, even delicate, in its images of Lester's activities. So tightly focused is the story on this one "child of God" that it resembles a myth, or parable. "You could say that he's sustained by his fellow men, like you.... A race that gives suck to the maimed and the crazed, that wants their wrong blood in its history and will have it."
From the Inside Flap
In this taut, chilling novel, Lester Ballard--a violent, dispossessed man falsely accused of rape--haunts the hill country of East Tennessee when he is released from jail. While telling his story, Cormac McCarthy depicts the most sordid aspects of life with dignity, humor, and characteristic lyrical brilliance.
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The story is simple: It's the mid-20th century in the mountainous Sevier County, Tennessee. Lester Ballard becomes dispossessed, left to wander the countryside. A man not quite right in the head. As the story goes on Lester becomes more and more...let's say "unhinged" in his dealings with people, particularly women and girls.
The writing is classic McCarthy. He makes you feel what you're reading. And this is a short novel, which makes its reading all the more difficult because it is so compressed. (I read it over two days.) The language is beautiful and uplifting; the story is grotesque and disquieting. What a dichotomy. The theme, to my reading, is because it just is that way (it's a common McCarthy theme). Some children for glory; some children for fire. Is Ballard a child of God? The same as other creatures inhabiting this world, yes. Even as McCarthy writes: "a child of God much like yourself perhaps." (That's a fresh take on the idiom "There but for the grace of God go I.") Perhaps. Likely not. Lester Ballard becomes a sick, twisted child, a fiend dwelling in caves and haunting the townsfolk. Who among us would stoop to this? Precious few, thank God. But there still is the theme: it could be you, but for the grace of God. Yes, there are moments throughout this novel of cruelty and barbarity and psychopathy/sociopathy; but there are also heart-rending moments of tender clarity--yes, I mean for Ballard. A broken vessel can cry to the heavens; McCarthy makes this monster human, all too human, like us, and that's the real horror.
For me, McCarthy is America's greatest living novelist, and this early work of his shows how he was developing his craft. You can see some elements here that he used in such later (and fuller and finer) works as No Country for Old Men and Blood Meridian. But this work stands alone as an eyepiece on one child turned loose to be sick and to sicken the world.
Child of God is a story of a shadowy cretin whose exploits initially to survive the elements take on a sinister and twisted bent. Only this author could extract a bit of sympathy for this monster. I'll not re-tell this tale, but if you liked Sutree, you are going to LOVE Child of God.
PS....by the way, if you haven't read Sutree......get thee to the kindle store.