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Best Boy
Cover of Best Boy
Best Boy
A Novel
Borrow Borrow

For fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime 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 Living Center. 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.

For fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime 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 Living Center. 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.

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About the Author-
  • Two decades after his debut novel, The Boy Who Went Away, won the Rome Prize, Eli Gottlieb returns to the subject of autism in this inspired new novel. Gottlieb lives in New York.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 1, 2015
    Todd Aaron has lived at the Payton Living Center, a therapeutic community for those with autism, for more than 40 years. Known as the “village elder,” he passes his time working with the center’s grounds crew, or serving hot lunch at a local school. But when a new roommate, the brain-injured, abrasive Tommy Doon, and a new staff member, Mike Hinton, suddenly appear, Todd’s quiet existence begins to unravel. Mike reminds Todd of his abusive dead father and uses Todd as cover to assist him in devious acts, while Tommy spends his time yelling at Todd and searching for whatever dark secrets his roommates may have. Added to this is the arrival of Martine, a one-eyed resident who takes a shine to Todd, and whom he admires. Pressure builds, and Todd decides his best option is to escape the center and make his way back to his hometown and his wealthy brother. The latest from Gottlieb (The Boy Who Went Away) is written through the perspective of Todd: his voice is spectacular, oscillating between casual and obsessive and frequently challenging the stereotypes that haunt those with autism and similar conditions. 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.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from December 1, 2015

    A longtime resident of the Payton Living Center, 50-year-old autistic man Todd Aaron shares his memories, daily life, perceptions, fears, and insecurities as he copes with life's changes within and outside his long-term care facility. This thoughtful, warmhearted book examines the effect of Todd's autism on his family, both before and after his parents' deaths as Gottlieb (The Face Thief) illuminates the little-understood world of autistic adults. Imparting the tense, edgy atmosphere created by patient-staff conflicts, Bronson Pinchot simultaneously maintains Todd's internal voice and captures the flat, drugged affect in the voices of heavily medicated patients. VERDICT This title will appeal to listeners interested in stories related to social issues such as long-term care for the mentally disabled. ["A deeply moving portrait of a kind and gentle soul": LJ 5/15/15 starred review of the Liveright: Norton hc; one of LJ's Top Ten Best Books of 2015; ow.ly/UCvAc.]--Laurie Selwyn, formerly with Grayson Cty. Law Lib., Sherman, TX

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Best Boy
A Novel
Eli Gottlieb
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