Summary and book reviews of Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb

Best Boy

by Eli Gottlieb

Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2015, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2016, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Bradley Sides

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About this Book

Book Summary

For fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time comes this landmark novel about autism, memory, and, ultimately, redemption.

Sent to a "therapeutic community" for autism at the age of eleven, Todd Aaron, now in his fifties, is the "Old Fox" of Payton LivingCenter. A joyous man who rereads the encyclopedia compulsively, he is unnerved by the sudden arrivals of a menacing new staffer and a disruptive, brain-injured roommate. His equilibrium is further worsened by Martine, a one-eyed new resident who has romantic intentions and convinces him to go off his meds to feel "normal" again. Undone by these pressures, Todd attempts an escape to return "home" to his younger brother and to a childhood that now inhabits only his dreams.

Written astonishingly in the first-person voice of an autistic, adult man, Best Boy with its unforgettable portraits of Todd's beloved mother, whose sweet voice still sings from the grave, and a staffer named Raykene, who says that Todd "reflects the beauty of His creation" is a piercing, achingly funny, finally shattering novel no reader can ever forget.

ONE

Payton LivingCenter was the sixth place in a row Momma had taken me but neither of us knew it was the one where I'd stay forever and ever.

"My darling manzipan, I'm just so sure you're going to be happy here," she said that day with her red mouth that never stopped talking.

Then she started crying. It was raining. We were sitting in the parked car and I touched the glass of the window that was clear as air. Rain was exploding silently on the other side of it and this scared me.

"There's so many things I need to tell you and there's never enough time," she said and then wiped her eyes with her handkerchief.

"Momma," I said, "the rain."

"Please listen to me very carefully," she said. "Life has a song of happiness at the heart of it, but you can only hear that song if you work hard and are always a Best Boy and do exactly what you are told. You'll love it here, and Daddy and I will come on Visiting Day and call you on the weekends, ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Gottlieb writes Todd’s story in a language that is accessible yet poetic. He creates great, metaphorical moments that describe how consuming autism can be, and also scenes that flow like soft, vulnerable affirmations that any person, on the spectrum or not, might make.   (Reviewed by Bradley Sides).

Full Review (680 words).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The story will appeal to a very broad range of readers: it's a fast read, and the plot is never less than captivating. Some narrative threads dissolve, but the conclusion is very satisfying, and Gottlieb's attention to crafting Todd's internal monologue is something to behold

Booklist

Starred Review. But in the way of all things happening for a reason, Gottlieb's marvelous novel has happened so that readers may be in awe of all the universe's creations.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Powerful and engaging… Gottlieb has created something quite exceptional in [Todd Aaron]. His interior life and psychology are convincingly drawn…. A deeply moving portrait of a kind and gentle soul. Recommended for all readers.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. [An] eloquent, sensitive rendering of a marginalized life… Gottlieb merits praise for both the endearing eloquence of Todd's voice and a deeply sympathetic parable that speaks to a time when rising autism rates and long-lived elders force many to weigh tough options.

Author Blurb Andrew Solomon
Amid the flood of books about autism in childhood comes this gripping novel about the fresher territory of autism in midlife. It is written with elan, wit, and great empathy, and it limns in fiction the crisis our nation faces in real life as we try to construct viable supports for this burgeoning population.

Author Blurb Walter Kirn
A literary experience of piercing, invigorating, profound humanity. A homecoming that restores the mind and soul.

Author Blurb Alison Lurie
Best Boy is a remarkable achievement – an intimate and convincing portrayal of what the world looks like from inside the mind of a mentally handicapped but unusually sensitive, observant, and decent man."

Author Blurb Cynthia Ozick
I've fallen in love with Best Boy, touched by its delicacy and fearless truths

Reader Reviews

Diane S.

Best Boy
As soon as you start reading you enter the mind and thoughts of fifty something Todd Aaron, an autistic man who has lived at the Payton Living Center for a good portion of his life. The wonderful and sometimes strange ways he looks at things and ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Autism in Middle Grade and Young Adult Literature

Eli Gottlieb's Best Boy tells the story of the life of Todd Aaron, an autistic man struggling to understand and fit into the world that surrounds him. Todd's story, while unique in its own right, is increasingly familiar. Autism is something that is increasingly talked about in the American popular culture and embedded in the American general conscience. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in every 68 American children has some form of autism.

Even in the technologically and scientifically-minded 21st century, what autism actually is remains a mystery to many people. According to Autism Speaks, autism can be characterized by "difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal ...

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