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The Beautiful Miscellaneous

3.53  ·  Rating Details ·  839 Ratings  ·  98 Reviews
Nathan Nelson is the average son of a genius. His father, a physicist of small renown, has prodded him toward greatness from an early age—enrolling him in whiz kid summer camps, taking him to the icy tundra of Canada to track a solar eclipse, and teaching him college algebra. But despite Samuel Nelson’s efforts, Nathan remains ordinary.

Then, in the summer of 1987, everythi
Hardcover, 329 pages
Published June 5th 2007 by Atria Books (first published May 21st 2007)
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Jul 24, 2008 Danielle rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I really, really liked this book to begin with, but it was kind of steadily downhill from the accident on (the turning point that takes place about a third of the way in). I actually wished I had stopped reading it, because the last third of the book was just disjointed and not nearly as well written as the first. It was an interesting premise, but the execution was lacking. I liked it much better when it was just the non-brilliant son trying to be happy with who he was. Anyway, I would not reco ...more
Jan 09, 2008 Madison rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2008
This book had a lot of good momentum until the BIG event with the father (no spoiler here!). Then the author seemed to flail around in a lot of disconnected writing/flow ~ was this just the desperate cobbling together of an ending, or was this to reflect the main character's muddled thoughts that followed? I have no idea what the meanderings, cop encounter, or secret photographs have AT ALL to do with the story, and felt they were disjointed and unnecessary. Of course, he could not find the lett ...more
Patrick Andrews
Oct 10, 2009 Patrick Andrews rated it it was amazing
Nathan Nelson is, as a child, involved in a terrible car accident, dies briefly, and awakens from a coma “gifted” with synethesia (sort of like a permanent acid trip: hearing colors, tasting sounds, smelling television, etc.) and an Eidetic (or photographic) memory. His father Samuel had for years, to no avail, tried to coax out Nathan’s genius, only to discover that his son was average, normal, unremarkable.

But after the accident, Nathan’s parents send him to a special school for special childr
Jun 11, 2007 Trin rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, science
This book has a really promising set-up: despite the teachings and urgings of his genius physicist father, 17-year-old Nathan has remained disappointingly average; then he survives a near-fatal car crash and in the process gets his brain rewired. The first hundred or so pages, the build-up to the accident you already know is going to occur, are like a pleasantly held breath, full of anticipation; unfortunately, once the accident happens, and Nathan—now gifted with synesthesia (one of my favorite ...more
Nancy Freund
Jun 08, 2014 Nancy Freund rated it it was amazing
"Later that night I drove home slowly in a light rain. The night felt cracked open, alive with possibility." One of many passages I underlined, I start with that because protagonist Nathan Nelson's experience in the car that night is just what this novel delivers to the reader. Aliveness with possibility.
Dominic Smith is my new favorite synesthesia writer. He has done a beautiful thing with this novel, incorporating numerous layers of "difference" into Nathan's unusual upbringing as the son of
Sep 23, 2007 Meg rated it it was amazing
one of those books you can't stop thinking about.
an intriguing read.

I can't wait to pick it up and read it again.
Jul 30, 2008 Rose rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: People who like characters, people who interact with geniuses but are not geniuses themselves
I agree with a lot of the other comments on this book. I only made it to halfway in... and what a beautiful half a book it was!

I laughed out loud at various parts of the book - usually they involved the description of the narrator's exceptionally dorky father - or should I say "socially challenged." The author excelled so well at constructing a character without going through the motions of telling you about the character. Example: he didn't write, "the dad is dorky," but he told you about all o
May 24, 2014 Gydle rated it really liked it
I liked this book - probably because I also had a particle physicist father (albeit not nearly as eccentric as this one) and I am also synesthetic. I liked the descriptions of synesthesia, they really rang true, which is difficult because it's so hard to capture the experience in words.

The relationships and characters are very real. I kind of wanted more, though, in terms of what happened with this gift in the protagonist's life.
Jun 19, 2007 Joe rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book enormously. The characters were vivid and the relationship between the father and the son was compelling. Really, it was a terrific novel. . .and a sign of that was that the day I was going to finish it, I was torn: I didn't want to stop reading but I also didn't want it to end. My one quibble: the book ends abruptly, I felt: the entire novel builds to a beautiful climax and then we are, all of the sudden, in the final chapter (really an epilogue), some years in the future an ...more
Kate Smith
Oct 12, 2014 Kate Smith rated it liked it
Nathan Nelson is an average boy with a father who is a genius physicist. Despite his father's best efforts to coax out some hidden talent in him, Nathan remains an ordinary kid with only above-average intelligence. This changes, however, when Nathan is involved in a serious car accident and experiences a brief clinical death. When he awakens from a coma, he has an extraordinary memory due to his new synesthesia. Nathan experiences his senses in a completely new way, where words has tastes, color ...more
Jun 13, 2014 Hanna added it
Shelves: 2010-reads
For the record, let me just say that I get uncharacteristically attached with the characters in the book that I read and I have a hard time dealing when the time comes for me to let go of them.

This sentiment is especially true after reading The Beautiful Miscellaneous by Dominic Smith. The book is essentially about a seemingly ordinary boy who has been living under the shadow of his father’s genius.

A huge chunk of the novel is about particle physics and I thoroughly enjoyed it as I am rediscover
Sarah Beth
Nov 12, 2014 Sarah Beth rated it liked it
"Being less than brilliant with a genius parent is like being the bum who stares, midwinter, through the restaurant window at the plump diners inside. There was my father, on the other side of that window, eating food so delicate and sumptuous it made my teeth ache. The seat opposite him was empty and expectant, but I never made it past the glass" (13).

At heart, this novel tells the age-old story of discord between father and son and unfulfilled expectations. Nathan Nelson's father is a physici
Feb 18, 2008 DeRay rated it liked it
This book is simply solid. I won't ever read it again and probably won't recommend it to many, if any, but I appreciate having read it and the characters left a well enough imprint in my memory for me to write about the book here.

As a story honestly portraying families and how a child struggles to be his/her own person in the midst of strongly willed parents, this story is well done.
Jul 06, 2008 Jess rated it it was ok
A good premise, heartwringing characters, a good turn of phrase here and there, but overall, there wasn't anything binding it all together. I get the feeling this is one of those books that could have been amazing, but just...wasn't
Sep 24, 2007 Rachel rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who like Mark Haddon
Shelves: fiction
Amazing. Beautiful. Random. And once more with the quantum theory theme that seems to keep cropping up in everything I read from fairy tales to mysteries to regular old fiction.
Dec 24, 2007 Natalie rated it liked it
Shelves: didntfinish
ok but I set it down and never picked it up again...
May 27, 2016 Bonnie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lived this way and ....differently

This is the third book I've read by Dominic Smith-all exceptionally well written and conceived. In this novel, young Nathan grows up knowing his genius scientist Father continually expects his son to be like him. While there is the expected hope by the son wishing his Father would love him as he is, Nathan learns through the years that expectations are often barriers.
This is a story rich with love, laughs, twists and turns, the categories of accepted societal
Sep 30, 2009 Sarah rated it really liked it
This book needs a new cover. It's a pretty cover, but it really needs something not so dorky looking so it would attract more teen readers![return][return]Nathan Nelson is raised to be a genius but doesn't quite fill the shoes. His dad is a famous physicist and his mother is a gourmet cook and woman of the world (from her living room, at least). Nathan is a good child and does everything his dad wants--science camps, trig tables, and spelling tests. But in junior high, Nathan purposely misses th ...more
Jun 28, 2010 Terri rated it liked it
I've had "The Beautiful Miscellaneous" on my "to read" list for some time. It got many good reviews, but I had never gotten to it. Beautifully written, this book is definitely for those who enter a book through the language door. The language and imagery are beautiful but definitely take careful attention and thought. The word choice requires an able reader, as would all of the physics and science talk. The book is also for those who enter a book through the character door, as it is ideas and pe ...more
Oct 02, 2010 JudithAnn rated it it was amazing
This was a very enjoyable coming-of-age (and further) story. The Beautiful Miscellaneous (2007) is the story of Nathan Nelson, the son of a genius. His father, the genius, is a particle physicist and is more interested in physics than in his own family.

Nathan is expected to do equally well but is only a little better than average at school. However, when he is seventeen, he awakes from a coma after an accident, and finds that his perception of words, sounds and images has changed. He is then pla
A coming of age story told from the perspective of the son, Nathan, of a recognized genius, Samuel, working as a second rate physicist. (That's still a highly regarded fellow when you consider Einstein as a first rate physicist.) While Nathan, a seventeen year old of slightly better than normal intelligence, feels his father has driven him to greatness throughout his childhood, perhaps a child's perspective on parental love is off-target?

After a tragic accident, Nathan develops synesthesia, a b
Lesley Battler
I agree with the “meh” contingent about this book.

I thought the book would be electric and unexpected, something like Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, only with the intriguing twist of placing a relatively average boy as the narrator, trying to understand and gain some acceptance from his savant father.

The book started well enough. Smith set up an interesting father-son dynamic with Nelson craving the kind of father Samuel can 't be for him. Misunderstandings and
Jul 04, 2009 Janine rated it liked it
After reading this book, I started to think about what the beautiful miscellaneous really is in our lives, in this world. Is it the genuises or is it the simple minded. Who or what really is normal and what can be considered outside the lines? Who doesn't fit the mold? Is the human fabric a unified field? Are we all parts of a one whole entity? And just like in physics (which the book uses a lot for a metaphor) are there random bits of mass that are unexplainable--the beautiful miscellaneous.

I r
Dec 11, 2015 Kristiana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Love the cover. That is one of the reasons I read the book. I know it is superficial, but there are a lot of books out there and sometimes you go with your gut.

The book started out all right, it seemed like a pretty straight forward story about families and expectations. As the story progressed though the themes behind it all became more thought provoking and interesting.

It asks the question, what is a life? Is it what we do? Is it what others want for us?

I didn't expect it to deal with the ide
Jan 05, 2009 Zinta rated it really liked it
I've had my eye on the rising literary star of Dominic Smith since he debuted with "The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre" in 2006, and when his new novel appeared on the bookshelf, I didn't walk to the bookstore... I ran. The star shines still.

"The Beautiful Miscellaneous" is the story of a boy whose father is a physicist, a genius of science, forever frustrated with his sharp but not quite genius son. Can a car accident and a coma make a father happy? Well, in this case, it gives him hope of
Judy Bart
Jun 25, 2016 Judy Bart rated it really liked it
This book might not be for everyone, but I loved it. A young and gifted boy, whose father was a physicist, has an accident that leaves him close to a savant. It is a touching coming of age story about a son unable to connect with his distant, remote and preoccupied father who in turn befriends very colorful characters. There is a lot of science in the book, but that intrigued me rather than repelled me. A definite recommendation, but if not for you, don't read past the sample!
Oct 16, 2008 Dale rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The Beautiful Miscellaneous is a coming-of-age story about Nathan Nelson, the teenage son of a physicist. He has modest intellectual abilities and is unable to meet his father's expectations, and has gotten tired of trying.

He has a near-death experience when riding in his grandfather's car. The accident left his grandfather dead and Nathan in a coma. When he comes out of the coma he finds that he has near-photographic memory and synesthesia - a sort of cross-connect between his senses, so that w
Aug 26, 2016 Sherry rated it liked it
3rd Dominic Smith Book. I loved Last Painting of Sara de Vos, but less enthralled by The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre and this, The Beautiful Mysterious. Will wait a bit to read others. Well written, different, but didn't synch with characters in either of last two. Bright but not the genius his father is, Nathan disappoints his hyper focused father. A car accident and his death and recessitation retire his brain and abilities and sensibilities. Unhappiness abounds.
Ron Schneider
Jul 26, 2016 Ron Schneider rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We're all miscellaneous

A beautifully written book with so many themes. Can children ever live up to their parents expectations? Can science ever explain why everything exists, and what do we miss when we spend all our lives searching for that theory? It's a coming of age novel about kids with special gifts. At the end of the day, we all have special gifts and talents, yet we're all just miscellaneous beings in a vast universe.
Robin Cicchetti
A coming-of-age story of the intellect, this was one of the best books I have ever read. Nathan is the son a genius, and is raised with the expectation that he will also have a great mind, if only he applies himself. He is a good kid and very, very smart, but not brilliant. This is a character study of the father, a quantum theory physicist, a son who lives in the shadow of expectation, a mother who believes that by cooking spectacular meals and having family games of rummy will make them all no ...more
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Dominic grew up in Sydney, Australia and now lives in Austin, Texas. His short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly and The Chicago Tribune.

Dominic is the author of four novels, most recently of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos (forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and Bright and Distant Shores (a sel
More about Dominic Smith...

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“The body thinks it’s real. That’s the problem of modern physics. How to convince our minds that they’re not our own.” 4 likes
“Can you create a vacuum out of a human life? A state where everything’s possible but nothing very likely? Does something new emerge when there’s no more empty space?” 3 likes
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