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Child of God

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  19,828 Ratings  ·  1,752 Reviews
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. ...more
Paperback, 197 pages
Published June 29th 1993 by Vintage (first published January 1st 1973)
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Alicia Really the bit about him being accused of rape is only a teensy tiny bit of the story and not something I would ever have used in a description of…moreReally the bit about him being accused of rape is only a teensy tiny bit of the story and not something I would ever have used in a description of what the book is about.
It's about a man, who seems to have some kind of mental illness, who has basically become an outcast within the village where he lives. He's very lonely and I would say the main theme is this loneliness and what it does to him in the end (without giving too much away).
It's quite a strange book, but if you like strange and if you like McCarthy already, you should certainly give it a go.(less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Tennessee Salamon He dragged the little girl he killed to the cave. Only her brother and the woman in the car were burned in fires. And yes, he was killing in the time…moreHe dragged the little girl he killed to the cave. Only her brother and the woman in the car were burned in fires. And yes, he was killing in the time jump between parts two and three(less)
American Psycho by Bret Easton EllisLord of the Flies by William Golding1984 by George OrwellA Child Called "It" by Dave PelzerA Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Most Disturbing Book Ever Written
84th out of 1,830 books — 6,657 voters
Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthyThe Road by Cormac McCarthyNo Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthyChild of God by Cormac McCarthySuttree by Cormac McCarthy
Best Cormac McCarthy Books
4th out of 19 books — 128 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
May 04, 2016 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeffrey by: On the Southern Literary Trail
Shelves: southern
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.

Were there darker provinces of night he would have found them.

There is a quote by David Foster Wallace that ‘good fiction's job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.’ Cormac McCarthy’s trim third novel, Child of God, is an optimal example of this sentiment, as it manages to provide the counterparts of the both comfortable and disturbed elements within the reader by offering them an unflinching portrait of baseness and demanding reaction. The short novel chronicles the hellis
Paul Bryant
Jul 23, 2014 Paul Bryant rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
film-of-the-book update :

None other than James (I'm handsome and I can do anything) Franco directed a version of this last year & I just saw it; and - damn, James, I hate to say this but - it was really good! And faithful! Really great performance by Scott Haze as Lester. You probably shouldn't watch it while you eat your tea nor should you be watching it with any elderly relatives but if you know what the story is about you probably would not do that. Unless you want to kill them off with s
Child of God: Cormac McCarthy's Outcast

 photo c0dc5dcd-8d60-4ed5-a77d-f908236627d2_zps5ad5f347.jpg
First edition, Random House, New York, New York, 1973

"He moves in the dry chaff among the dust and slats of sunlight with a constrained truculence. Saxon and Celtic bloods. A child of God much like yourself perhaps.

The setting is Sevier County, Tennessee, in the 1960s. Our protagonist is twenty-seven. He is an orphan. His life between the suicide of his father and the loss of his home is an unanswered question. We are dropped into his story in medias res
Jun 17, 2016 Zoeytron rated it really liked it
Shelves: public-library
There is something inherently wrong with Lester Ballard. As he skulks through the backwoods of Eastern Tennessee, a hunting rifle is his only companion. Ballard's skewed thinking, awkward ways, and repugnant proclivities render him unfit to be around other people. Darkly disturbing, fascinating and repellent. Another walk in the dark with Cormac McCarthy. This is his territory.
Paquita Maria Sanchez
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 28, 2008 Matt rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone that thinks the public school system is unimportant.
'Child of God' is the third McCarthy book that I have read over the past few weeks. I usually try to stay away from any kind of review or description of a book just prior to reading, but I had recently come across the fact that this was supposed to be McCarthy's darkest work.

Boy, I'll say.

This book will make you feel like you need a long shower afterwards. I believe that this was the same affect that Ellis was going for in 'American Psycho', but I think that McCarthy out-Batemaned him on this on
Jul 04, 2016 Darwin8u rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
“He did not know how hawks mated but he knew that all things fought.”
― Cormac McCarthy, Child of God


And HE has sent me here?*

Look, I've read a lot (ok all) of Cormac McCarthy and this is not your mother's McCarthy. I think this novel was the final pupa-state before McCarthy emerged as THE absolute dark monster of American fiction and heir to Faulkner's title of ambassador to the strange malevolence of America's soul.

It wasn't as absurdly redeeming as Suttree or as coldly beautiful as Blood Meri
May 02, 2009 Melody rated it really liked it
This is one of those books that, when you read it, and really like it, it makes you wonder if you should be worried about yourself.

I mean it’s kind of like finding something brown and wondering if it might be chocolate and tasting it and discovering that it really is something vile and disgusting. But then you should have known better. I mean you found the brown thing on the floor, so there was no way you REALLY could have been expecting chocolate and then, Oh look! There’s another something br
Paul Capps
Mar 06, 2016 Paul Capps rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016, fiction
Lester Ballard is “a child of god,” similar to you and me. Cormac McCarthy opens Child of God telling us this, and this very well may be the most disturbing and unsettling part of this dark novel.

We never know a lot about Ballard’s back story other than he was orphaned at a young age, and he grew up on his own in the Tennessee backwoods, isolated and separate from the rest of civilization, or what passes for civilization there. Ballard grows up exceedingly anti-social and feral. He only venture
Nov 06, 2013 Lou rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-read-list
There was two main reasons for re-reading this novel in the month of October 2012, one was due to reading William Gay's novel The provinces of night of which the title is taken from the opening sentence of a chapter from this novel. The second reason was Donald Ray Pollock's recommendation to read this in a recent interview I had with him.
I am now more convinced that we have in our midst a great writer. In the first read of this and The Road I payed less attention to the prose and the whole way
Oh I just couldn't do it. Now I know my reasoning might annoy a few but this book annoyed me. And that's the reason I love books: To each his own.

I read this as part of the Southern Literary Trail book read and while this is nothing against the group which has some great picks, this is one $9.99 I want back!

So. At first descriptions like "palest starlight" and "bawling dogs" annoyed me a bit not because I don't like the pairings, but because they started to appear everywhere, almost like an ov
Aug 25, 2010 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My review just got completely deleted. I'm starting over, and it will be EVEN BETTER maybe.

There's a creek that winds along behind my parents house in downtown Indianapolis. It's barely more than a trickle, barely enough to get your feet wet when you're wearing shoes with thick soles. It was just wide enough that my ten year old self had to jump to make it across. But it was the wildest, most natural thing I'd known at that age, and I followed that son of a bitch.

I walked down one direction to
Cormac McCarthy has an ability to turn a savage, degenerated human qualities into poetry, dark but still poetry. Loved this book. My video review:
Oct 22, 2008 Dayna rated it really liked it
It's not as clear of a narrative, like No Country, it's kind of like watching a train wreck in slow motion. The feeling of dread that builds throughout the book is excruciating - similar to the way I felt about Chigurh.

The writing style is very sparse - the descriptions of nature are poetic, in contrast to the ugliness of some of the action. I don't want to say too much about what happens, but it is truly shocking. The story starts out with the town auctioning off Lester Ballard's property - he
Bojan Gacic
Oct 27, 2013 Bojan Gacic rated it really liked it
While browsing the Internet I stumbled upon a comment : ''Didn't like Child of God, couldn't get comfortable with it''. Rape, murder, necrophilia? Who could be/get comfortable with any of it? One could claim it is only instinctive and usual to flinch at the mere sight of such perversions- even if they remain descriptive in nature.

Thinking even further.......McCarthy.......when were any of you comfortable with his work? In here lays the core of our preference for his distinctive narrative. It is
Jul 01, 2011 Steve rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, horror
There are a lot of GR reviewers, who I really respect, rating this one higher. I came to C-O-G after a McCarthy reading blitz, and felt this was definitely one of his lesser novels. It's like he sat down and said "I'm going to write crazy, outrageous shit and see what happens." And with McCarthy that will take you into some strange places. The result is enough to make a fan of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre sit down and shut-up. But take a step back and ask yourself: Can he do better? Well, yes he ...more
Hannah  Messler
Apr 10, 2009 Hannah Messler rated it it was amazing
I finished this book yesterday morning and then was an absolute emotional wreck for almost the whole rest of the day. I don't know if there's any connection or not (I also didn't eat the day before except a Greek yogurt, a rice pudding, and movie popcorn and also drank a shitload of Earl Grey AND stayed up too late AND saw Let the Right One In [which is exquisite:]), but oh my LORD. This is a book I will never recommend to my Mom, to say the freaken LEAST. Just utterly stunningly backbreakingly ...more
Aug 24, 2015 Ju$tin rated it it was amazing
Watched the movie - was good.

Read the book - was great. A very dark story about a man who started out life on a downward spiral and there doesn't seem any hope for him getting out of it, or is there?

The prose and dialogue are simply on another level.

Haven't read all of Cormac's works but so far it's Blood Meridian > Child of God > The Road > No Country for Old men > Outer Dark. Excited to read The Border Trilogy. Cormac is slowly turning into one of my favorite authors.
Dec 13, 2012 Tfitoby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
Lester Ballard is a revolting man. Everywhere he goes bad things happen. But not for any apparent reason. It's almost as if McCarthy just wanted to push buttons and see what he could get away with, so instead of plot, of cause and effect we are presented with a protagonist with no redeemable features on a no holds barred journey of mindless debauchery, southern redneck style. One day there's no whiskey available and the next he's filling that hole in his life with the bodies of dead women. Balla ...more
Sep 25, 2014 Ken rated it it was amazing
"We never sold any of his books."—Albert Erskine, Cormac McCarthy's original editor at Random House.

Is it any wonder? Released in 1973, Child of God pulls no punches. Murder, necrophilia, and incest to name a few things. It’s a dirty bloodbath of humans crawling through the muck. McCarthy was not giving readers anyone to relate to. In this day and age when there are way too many novels filled with overtly-relatable characters, almost as if the authors and publishers are too damned skittish about
Ilenia Zodiaco
Jan 11, 2015 Ilenia Zodiaco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana
La valutazione dei libri di questo scrittore dovrebbe seguire criteri a parte, parametri misurati sul suo genio buio, la fantasia macabra,il tratteggio formidabile di personaggi dai cuori neri. La sesta stellina è McCarthy.

"Pensate che a quei tempi la gente fosse più cattiva di oggi? chiese il vicesceriffo. Il vecchio stava guardando la città inondata. No, disse. Non lo penso. Penso che la gente sia la stessa fin dal giorno che Dio creò il primo uomo".
May 13, 2016 Cody rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hillbilly-bats
Per the proposed new GR rating system: 4 goatheads; 4 pentagramatical swords; color: heliotrope!


Goddamn, look at me feeling all sentimental! Maybe it’s because I hadn’t read this book in nearly 20-years, or because I’ve just generally been on a Southern Gothic kick as of late, but I’m giving this bastard a grade it really doesn’t deserve. Why? Why not! It’s just all so much fun, so obviously intended to pick up the impossible legacy that Flannery O’Connor left behind. Had O’Connor’s preternatu
Benjamin Dancer
Jun 27, 2014 Benjamin Dancer rated it it was amazing
I talk to a lot of people about Cormac McCarthy. It's a rare person who is familiar with his 1973 novel Child of God. Not exactly easy reading–not on the mind nor on the spirit. The story is about Lester Ballard: a Tennessee pariah, a serial-killing necrophiliac–or put another way, a child of God.

The people who have actually read the book talk about themes of cruelty, isolation and moral degradation. Others talk about survival, as Ballard is on the run. He is quite cunning and willing to endure
Portal in the Pages
Well this just overtook House of Leaves as my favourite book fullstop. The five year reign is over. I am completely and utterly blown away.
Feb 11, 2008 Amy rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 10, 2015 Mary rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This book is definitely dark and will propel you right into the hazy netherworld of incest, murder and necrophilia. But at the same time the writing is so beautiful, compelling and brilliant that you can't turn away and stick with it right until the bitter end. This is what writing is all about.

Neal Adolph
He is without a doubt one of my favourite authors. Always he amazes me. I'm pretty sure that nobody else writes like Cormac McCarthy. Certainly nobody else has the effect on me that he does. Something incredible takes place in the worlds he writes into existence. First, you are convinced that it is entirely real. Second, you are amazed that this sparesly constructed space is real. Third, you are horrified that the space is real. And so are the characters.

Every book that I have read by McCarthy h
Dec 26, 2012 Ginny_1807 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romanzi, america
Un romanzo duro, crudele, pervaso da un'atmosfera di violenza e di degrado. Una storia di solitudine, miseria e disperata follia.
Ma alle scene più atroci e raccapriccianti si alternano passaggi inattesi e stupendi di lirica dolcezza e di struggente commozione.
Lester Ballard è una figura immane nella sua barbarie spaventosa: piccolo, magro e cattivo, non piace a nessuno e tutti lo mantengono a prudente distanza. È cresciuto così e così continua la sua esistenza: defraudato dell’infanzia, di ogn
Nov 22, 2013 Aban rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Neither a human nor an animal, just kind of a centaur or something like that; this is Lester Ballad, the miserable character of this marvelous novel. From the first line of the text I tried to understand why Mr. McCarthy’s chosen “Child of God” as the title of his work and this was the only, yet the most worthy possession I had when I started to read.

There are always different methods of reading for different writers, styles and themes. I found the method of reading this work very near to the o
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Cormac McCarthy is an American novelist and playwright. He has written ten novels in the Southern Gothic, western, and post-apocalyptic genres and has also written plays and screenplays. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for The Road, and his 2005 novel No Country for Old Men was adapted as a 2007 film of the same name, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

His earlier Blood M
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“At one time in the world there were woods that no one owned” 101 likes
“Each leaf that brushed his face deepened his sadness and dread. Each leaf he passed he'd never pass again. They rode over his face like veils, already some yellow, their veins like slender bones where the sun shone through them. He had resolved himself to ride on for he could not turn back and the world that day was as lovely as any day that ever was and he was riding to his death.” 31 likes
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