- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Picador; First Edition edition (2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312424493
- ISBN-13: 978-0312424497
- Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #181,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Happy Baby Paperback – 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
The material accrues power as you go, even though the prose is so lean and spare. Because of the reverse chronology (in each story the main character is a little younger), you'd think the plot would be spoiled, but the heartbreak you feel for this character just deepens and deepens as you get to see what made him into the man you first encounter. It's not a gimmick--it's told in just the right order. As a plus, the author's evocation of Chicago is perfectly detailed.
The story captures the abuse and neglect which are a hidden but too common aspect of our society. It really challenged my perspective and even made me burn to see some changes in the way we deal with problem kids. Excellent work.
"He would come and get me about once a week; I never knew exactly when. I'd wait in my room for him. I remember Mr. Gracie's hands closing around my neck, how I couldn't breathe, and then how I didn't want to breathe. I remember how his body felt warm on my back and how, when he pulled away from me, I felt exposed, as if somebody had yanked a blanket off me."
The story is heavy and will linger with you. Fans of Augusten Burroughs will see some similarities here, but don't expect any laughter (or very little.) The novel is both story-driven and literary. Worth the price.
This reaction to Happy Baby, the result of being subjected to a work of art that slams into my solar plexus, kept me under its spell for several hours, the world of Theo spinning around my head, leaving me an amnesiac zombie.
The easy delivery, the immediacy of every line and every device used in such a way as to hide its presence has me enrapt. Brilliant!
One aspect that this novel explores is the fact that many state caseworkers who are supposed to look out for the best interests of the children actually prey on them. Some of the grimmest scenes in this novel involve the rape of the narrator by sex crazed bureaucrats.
Happy Baby is a novel that exposes a side of American life that many government officials would like to keep covered up. It is highly recommended reading.
Working backwards, Theo begins his story in the present, tortured days where his energy is absorbed by the need for the release of physical pain. His only safety is in familiarity and ritual, so he seeks those of similar needs, where days are measured by degradation and emotional anguish so deep it can only be temporarily expunged.
Growing up in the child welfare system in Illinois, Theo is thrown into a murky, indifferent world, one where soul-dead predators rule. The social workers, too over-burdened to be effective, have their enthusiasm crushed early on in this game, where the only way to survive is to ignore the chaos and violence. Good intentions are quickly reduced to a belief that these children cannot be saved, left at the mercy of their caretakers, who feed freely on the defenseless.
The power of Happy Baby is in its structure: Elliott throws the netherworld of sexual deviance in your face. If you don't like it, don't look at it...there is no lack of customers. The author peels away Theo's psyche like the skin of an onion, exposing each tender layer in the systematic destruction of an innocence most people take for granted.
Society doesn't like to examine its failures, let alone acknowledge them.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not the type of story I usually review. It is a story collection, sort of a memoire, not sure exactely how much of it is real and how much is fiction though. Read morePublished 18 months ago by MaleReader
He writes like no one else....
That's all there is to say, nothing else. Read and enjoy it...in one sitting.
Stephen Elliot is a wonderful writer. It's like having an old friend tell you stories.
If you want to know what it's like to read a Stephen Elliot book, check out my review... Read more
Not a dull read. Helped me a lot to jump start my acting career. Like said in the title, full of information. Excellent acting coach.Published on May 29, 2013 by Melissa
I was amazed how simultaneously dark and tender this novel was. It gets really dark, believe me it gets dark, but the tenderness just comes out more the darker it gets. Read morePublished on March 3, 2013 by D. S. Atkinson
I loved it. It was a great story and I think it will make a very interesting movie. Can't wait!Published on November 20, 2012 by Nadia
As a product of the Illinois group home system, it is clear to me that this author has never lived in a group home,or even been homeless, and that his entire story is invented for... Read morePublished on March 24, 2012 by Gladiator
this was a gorgeous book, that crept up on me slowly, but with considerable warmth and power. I liked the way it started at the end, and then unraveled through the past, working... Read morePublished on April 17, 2011 by Julia Jean