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Buried Child

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  8,190 ratings  ·  232 reviews
A newly revised edition of an American classic, Sam Shepard's Pulitzer Prize winning Buried Child is as fierce and unforgettable as it was when it was first produced more than twenty-five years ago.

A scene of madness greets Vince and his girlfriend as they arrive at the squalid farmhouse of Vince's hard-drinking grandparents, who seem to have no idea who he is. Nor does hi
Paperback, 120 pages
Published February 14th 2006 by Vintage (first published 1979)
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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 ·  8,190 ratings  ·  232 reviews

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“You can't force a thing to grow. You can't interfere with it. It's all hidden. It's all unseen. You just gotta wait til it pops up out of the ground. Tiny little shoot. Tiny little white shoot. All hairy and fragile. Strong enough. Strong enough to break the earth even. It's a miracle.”
Sam Shepard, Buried Child


I recently reread this for the first time in many years. I had assigned it to some of my acting students for a script analysis class, since I wanted to revisit it. Revisiting it as a
Dave Schaafsma
Sep 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays, drama
Since I read Patti Smith’s Year of the Monkey that deals with the last days she spent with her lifelong friend Sam Shepard, I thought I’d read/listen to a couple of his plays again. The two I have re-read so far were seen as part of his “family” trilogy, True West, and then this, which was the play that catapulted him to fame and many honors, and it’s really good.

It’s the story of 22-year-old Vince who comes home from New York to Illinois to see his family after 6 years. When he gets there girl
Joe Valdez
Sep 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays
This month's literary jack-in-the-box to pop out of the reading group I participate in (The Dive Bar Book Club OC) is the play Buried Child by late actor/playwright Sam Shepard. First produced at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco on June 27, 1978 and in New York City at the Theatre for the New City later that year, an off-Broadway production in 2016 featured Ed Harris in the role of Dodge, an old timer withering away on a sofa while his hen pecking wife Halie (played by Harris' wife Amy Madigan ...more
Anna Avian
Aug 03, 2020 rated it liked it
A dark story about the decline of an American way of life and a family, that has gotten left behind within the changing times, losing themselves in a blur of treachery, self-denial and retribution that threatens to extend through the generations backward and forward.
Reader: "Book? Hey, book?"

Book: *dozing on the couch* *waking up* "Huh? Who are you? Why are you in my house?"

Reader: "YOUR house? Book, you are in my house."

Book: "Who are you? What're ya doing here?"

Reader: "Oh, stop fooling around already."

Book: "You're the one who's fooling. Where are ya from?"

Reader: "Hamburg, as you well know."

Book: "Dumb country."

Reader: "It's a city..."

Book: "Even dumber."

Reader: "Book, where's your bookmark?"

Book: "Bookmark? What bookmark? What's it to you?"

Reader: "I'm
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
I've heard about this play a while ago when a friend went to watch it and left the theatre perplexed about it. I read a little about Sam Shepard's work and it all started to fit.

Buried Child is a dark and twisted play which talks about adultery, betrayal, murder and even incest. Deeper than this subjects, the dysfunctional family has a secret buried, one which will soon be revealed after so much plough of the arid terrain in which it was buried.

An incredible play for anyone who wants to be sho
Mary Slowik
Dec 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Illinoisians
Shelves: borrowed, drama
December of Drama 2015, day fifteen

"The other night we went to see Sam's play,
(Doin' the things that we want to)
It was very physical. It held you to the stage.
(Doin' the things that he wants to)
--Doin' the Things that We Want to, by Lou Reed

Alright, so maybe I will start using relevant lyrics to open my reviews. I'm pretty sure that song is referring to a different Sam Shepard play but it nevertheless applies to this one. You just can't look away. Buried Child is poetic and surprising, brutal a
Gregory Knapp
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays
Sam Shepard will have to slug it out with Lanford Wilson for Best American Playwright of the last quarter of the 20th Century.

Whatever the outcome Shepard is in contention for his startling ability to delineate the various degrees of obscene psychic cruelty that family members are capable of inflicting on one another, and to put this on the stage in a way that's not only palpable, but riveting, and even comic -- without ever diminishing our comprehension of the horrors being perpetrated.

I have n
Jul 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
I have to say- this play is MESSED up. This play shows the destruction of a family from the inside out, and I was relieved when I finished it, not because it was bad, but because I couldn't wait to get out of these characters' minds. ...more
Aug 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I have read this play about seven or eight times. I used this play for my final script analysis project in college and kept finding more and more bizarre qualities hidden in the text each time I read it. I am a huge fan of dark plays with twisted characters.
Tom O'Brien
Aug 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays
Sam Shepard's play dresses itself as naturalistic but wears those clothes loosely, sometimes not at all. This makes it difficult at times to fully engage with the undoubtedly powerful action. It's true of almost any play, or work of art, that what happens works on more than one level but for me, here, it is distracting.

The myth making being challenged is true and real while the reality the characters are working through is also painful. However instances where they act like symbolic characters
This is some scary, crazy, awesome sh*t.
Jun 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Dark, dated, but probably fun for actors to act in.
Nov 10, 2020 added it
what a really dysfunctional family
Ray LaManna
Jul 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A forceful, and rather depressing, play about the disintegration of a family in 1970s American of Sam Shepard's best. ...more
Jan 04, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: plays
Sam Shepard juggles with madness in this play wich combine aspects of postmodernism, surrealism and symbolism. No one can better reproduce the illusion of a society built on corpses with mortar made of greed than those who live in it, and the american playwrighter Shepard sums up very well the collapse of morality and ethics in America (that is, if America has ever reached a peak of morality from where to collapse).
Sadegh Maleki
Jun 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Hyper-Reality and Fragmentation of Identity: An application of Baudrillard’s theories to The Buried Child

We live in a world which signs no longer refer to something, but to themselves. Therefore, the world of signs replace reality because signs are more real that the reality itself. This is what Baudrillard calls hyper-reality. In addition, Baudrillard in his The Illusion of the End argues about the disappearance of the past. Such a thing is possible as a result of lifelessness of real events du
Jan 19, 2009 rated it it was ok
I have heard (and feel like I will continue to hear) great things about this play. Too me it was unrelentingly heavy and dark. There didn't seem to be a speck of joy to thin out all the secrecy and tragedy behind the central family. Reading the play was so thick I wasn't even really sure what the hell was going on by the end of it. Seeing the play later on in the same month failed to clear much up. It was really only years later after having the opportunity to forget a lot of the extra crap that ...more
Jan 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
Didn't really like it. It started just fine but then deconstructed into an absurdist mess which I don't care that much about, not in Beckett and evidently not in Shepard either. Buried Child is more about the form than about what it's trying to say - although I'm not sure if it tries to say nothing at all.

That's the problem with expressionism and absurdism: the art piece in itself is the center of everything and in Buried Child's case, the mystery and illogicality of it all takes the attension
Nicholas Montemarano
Mar 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
Strange reading experience.

By the end of Act One I was really into this play and impressed with Shepard's writing (I'd never read one of his plays or stories). Guy shows up at his childhood farm home with his girlfriend only to discover that his family doesn't recognize him. OK, I'm with you. The grandfather, clearly very old and ill, is sneaking drinks on the couch. Lots of tension.

But the play -- which won the Pulitzer, go figure -- just becomes stranger and stranger with no payoff, in my mind
Jennifer Bacall
Nov 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Painfully beautiful, beautifully realistic, realistically awkward, Shepard writes regular American family life like it's a surrealistic painting. With classic symbolism, this dysfunctional family passes from one generation to the next in a few strange moments. ...more
Jul 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: play, fiction, america
Ever came home after a few years, get that unsettling feeling that maybe, just maybe, you've walked into someone else's purgatory, where people are full of hate and mean drunks and being eaten alive by old secrets, and think: "well let's see if there's corn outside"? ...more
Jun 19, 2014 added it
It's like Everybody Loves Raymond if there was a long lost third brother who's never been mentioned before, and he's just dropped in unexpectedly! ...more
Isadora Wagner
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: orals-list, drama
Strange strange strange. But I liked it.
Jack Davidson
Feb 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: play-genre
This play will haunt you.
This play will excite you.
This play will change you.
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 11-read-2018, plays
I read this play with friends, which was exceptionally fabulous. It was much shorter than I was expecting. You know, for most of it I didn't understand what was going on. I understood that this family had some secrets and tragedy, and that they were a bit nuts from it. I didn't understand what had driven them all to be so crazy. My final understanding of what he was trying to say is that when people deny the sins that they have done it creates mental problems. Perhaps he was saying something abo ...more
Kevin Revolinski
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
Might be his plays just aren't my thing. It's dark and twisted, everyone keeps saying, and that's true. But other than some nervous chuckles and some mild a-ha moments as things are revealed/hinted at, I don't get much out of it. Near the beginning the exposition of Halie sort of talking to herself struck me as a bit clumsy. (Dare I say that of a Pulitzer winner?) My ear is a bit sensitive to that sort of dialogue. Short read, anyway, don't let me deter you from what others apparently love here. ...more
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classic
This play was very surreal and definitely had an American Gothic feel to it. I didn't always understand what exactly everything meant, but I really enjoyed the general feelings evoked while reading. ...more
Nov 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Read this in my theatrical Lit class and WOW. The amount of debates we had over the ending of the show was amazing!!
Cassidy Menard
Oct 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fall-2019
I wanted to enjoy this more than I did, but I think I'm not yet literate enough in plays to grasp everything there was to grasp. Some very dramatic turns, but also a lot of repetitive speech and somewhat inelegant symbolism. However, I'm still proud of myself for sticking to my commitment to read from other forms and I will continue to nurture my deep affection (crush) for Sam Shepard. ...more
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Sam Shepard was an American artist who worked as an award-winning playwright, writer and actor. His many written works are known for being frank and often absurd, as well as for having an authentic sense of the style and sensibility of the gritty modern American west. He was an actor of the stage and motion pictures; a director of stage and film; author of several books of short stories, essays, a ...more

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“VINCE: I was gonna run last night. I was gonna run and keep right on running. Clear to the Iowa border. I drove all night with the windows open. The old man's two bucks flapping right on the seat beside me. It never stopped raining the whole time. Never stopped once. I could see myself in the windshield. My face. My eyes. I studied my face. Studied everything about it as though I was looking at another man. As though I could see his whole race behind him. Like a mummy's face. I saw him dead and alive at the same time. In the same breath. In the windshield I watched him breathe as though he was frozen in time and every breath marked him. Marked him forever without him knowing. And then his face changed. His face became his father's face. Same bones. Same eyes. Same nose. Same breath. And his father's face changed to his grandfather's face. And it went on like that. Changing. Clear on back to faces I'd never seen before but still recognized. Still recognized the bones underneath. Same eyes. Same mouth. Same breath. I followed my family clear into Iowa. Every last one. Straight into the corn belt and further. Straight back as far as they'd take me. Then it all dissolved. Everything dissolved. Just like that. And that two bucks kept right on flapping on the seat beside me.” 1 likes
“VINCE: We'd never make it. We'd drive and we'd drive and we'd drive and we'd never make it. We'd think we were getting farther and farther away. That's what we'd think.” 1 likes
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