I always feel a little weird reviewing someone’s memoir. It’s like I’m judging their life. But oh well, that’s why they pay me the big bucks for this blog.
Much as the subtitle indicates, Beautiful Boy is David Sheff’s journey through his son’s meth addiction. However, the book begins well before the meth addiction does. The reader gets to watch Nic Sheff grow up, from the product of a long distance divorce to a funny, caring, movie-obsessed kid.
I liked seeing this other side of Nic, or should I say the early side. Of course, knowing what the book was about, this sense of dread loomed over me even as I read about his love of music and close relationship with his much younger brother and sister. In fact, it made it even harder to read about his drug addiction knowing what I did about what the of person Nic was when he wasn’t on drugs.
Despite the horror and destruction that comes with a drug addiction in the family, David Sheff does his best to share it all clearly. He shows the pain Nic’s stepmother, little brother and little sister feel, the damage Nic does to his own body, and the never-ending worry and stress that overcomes David during this time. As a professional writer, David is able to write about these hard to write about times, and does it compassionately. Personally, I could have done with less of the scientific explanation behind addiction, but that’s just because I read books for the stories of people. This is why I am not a big non-fiction person.
The only other part of the book that I didn’t always enjoy was the repetitiveness. Nic is sober, charming, and a loving part of his family. Nic is on drugs, losing his apartment and his job, and robbing his family. Nic is sober again, and again getting his life together and bringing hope to his family. Nic is on drugs again, disappearing for days at a time and causing panic to his family. Nic is sober again again, having completed rehab and making amends with his family. Nic is on drugs again, Nic is sober again, Nic is on drugs again. So goes addiction.
It may not make the best arc for a novel, but it is real life. And David Sheff portrays it all honestly.