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Child of God

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  41,418 ratings  ·  2,680 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.
Paperback, 186 pages
Published 2011 by Picador (first published January 1st 1973)
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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Jeffrey Keeten
Nov 13, 2013 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
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great day in the morning! He is making me homesick! Just the speech patterns which McCarthy nails. It reminded me of River's Edge although the movie seems mild by comparison. Maybe, I'm just grateful that it used an inflatable doll.


Dennis Hopper as Feck and Daniel Roebuck as Samson "John" Tollet from River's Edge (1987)
Paul Bryant
Oct 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 shock
Ahmad Sharabiani
Child of God, Cormac McCarthy

Set in mountainous Sevier County, Tennessee, in the 1960's, Child of God tells the story of Lester Ballard, a dispossessed, violent man whom the narrator describes as "a child of God much like yourself perhaps."

Ballard's life is a disastrous attempt to exist outside the social order. Successively deprived of parents and homes and with few other ties, Ballard descends literally and figuratively to the level of a cave-dweller as he falls into crime and degradation.

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 media
Paquita Maria Sanchez
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
J. Kent Messum
How far can one book go? How objectionable can the subject matter be?

Well, take a southern degenerate raised in an abysmal state of affairs and trace his downward spiral into serial murder and necrophilia… that’s what McCarthy did in ‘Child of God’. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This novel is a descent into the darkness that can befall an uneducated and amoral man when left to his own devices; someone abandoned on the fringes of civilization and left to fend for themselves with what li
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Creeeeepy!!! I couldn’t help but think of Ed Gein while reading this book. Yuck!! Very morbidly entertaining. Lol.
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

3.5 Stars

Allow me to introduce you to my new boyfriend, Lester Ballard . . . .

Ha! Just kidding. There’s apparently even a limit to how weird I like ‘em. However, just in case you think Mitchell and I are slipping, please note that this title was added to the TBR once we discovered it was about a necrophile, which is basically our literary equivalent to . . . .

As I said before, the story here is about a man named Lester Ballar
Jul 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Such a Cute Little Novel about a Cave-Dwelling Necrophiliac Murderer

The narrator of this short novel describes the main character, Lester Ballard, as "a child of God much like yourself perhaps." A 27-year-old hillbilly outcast in 1960s, Sevier County (Smoky Mountains), Tennessee. He had no parents, recently lost his home and cannot carry on normal relationships with women. When he finds a couple dead in a parked car, he takes the woman with him to be his necro-concubine in a house in which h
May 04, 2016 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
What a grim story....
and what a grand writer.
Beautiful scenery described in a very dark story.

This may be a spoiler...

'In the evening, a jeep descended the log road towing a trailer in the bed of which lay seven bodies bound in muslin like enormous hams. As they went down the valley in the new fell dark basking nighthawks rose from the dust in the road before them with wild wings and eyes red as jewels in the headlights....'
Jan 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
" You think people was meaner then than they are now? the deputy said.
The old man was looking out at the flooded town.
No, he said. I don't. I think people are the same from the day God first made one."

Lester Ballard is a child of God much like you or me... unless you have a penchant for murder and necrophilia that is. This novel gives" Blood meridian" a run for its money in terms of darkness and depravity. As banal as it sounds, this book is not for the faint of heart.
Dec 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
You think people was meaner then than they are now? the deputy said.
The old man was looking out at the flooded town. No, he said, I don't. I think people are the same from the day God first made one.

Never has madness been coincided with so fitting an atmosphere. A representation of fizzled humanity and self-preservation is often regarded as morally inept. But there's no doubt that our hero is Ballard, romping through a desolate landscape with his "dark lusts," poisoning Tennessee with his indulg
Bojan Gacic
Oct 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Brian Pacini
Aug 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Typical dark, dark McCarthy book. Really breaks contemporary stereotypes of where you think the story is going.
Aug 08, 2010 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
Mar 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My god, this is dark. Whereas in his later novels, McCarthy explores ideas of right and wrong, morality and justice, there is no trace of these in Child of God: only a sheer plunge to the depths of human depravity; an intimate confrontation with the worst that a man can become. And despite the grim subject matter, this is McCarthy at his most lyrical and poetic. He manages to wring such depth and colour from his words, creating vivid pictures from unusual and imaginative combinations. These imag ...more
Bob Brinkmeyer
Apr 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At the start of the semester when I’m going over with a class the books we will be reading, I always pause and take a breath before I give a sentence or two about Child of God. “This is a book about a man named Lester Ballard who loses his farm and ends up killing people and sleeping with the bodies,” I tell my students. I give them a second to digest this summary, and then continue, “but it’s much more complex than that and it’s gorgeously written.” Then I ask who wants to be the discussion lea ...more
This is the story of a crusty old man and his travels across the countryside. Life keeps shitting on him, but he is a massive shit himself. Which came first, it is up for debate.

This was an interesting read. My opinion of the lead character, Lester Ballard, changed as each chapter gave up more of his story. What started as pity, quickly changed to disgust as his nefarious thoughts and actions were revealed. To know which came first, him being an awful person or life being awful to him was so
May 24, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not My Cup of Tea

If this had not been a McCarthy book I would not have read it, not because it was violent, but because it took on a different kind of sickness, that of killing women in order to have sex with them. At least they can’t complain to their rapist. Thank God the audio was only 3 hours long. And I must say, the writing was not the best, nothing like “The Road: or “Suttree, or even “No Country for Old Men,” which means, to me, it had no artistic value. And now I can say that I have rea
Cormac McCarthy has an ability to turn a savage, degenerated human qualities into poetry, dark but still poetry. Loved this book. My video review: ...more
Dave Schaafsma
My least favorite novel from Cormac McCarthy thus far, so thanks be that it was short. Short, nasty and brutish. Set in the south, it features yet another evil madman such as The Judge from Blood Meridian or Chigurh from No Country For Old Men but with less lyricism, more necrophilia (yes, you heard that right and have been warned). But just in case you wonder if McCarthy thinks things are getting worse than ever, he has one cop ask another that very question and the guy responds no, human natur ...more
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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 ...more

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