Book Review: Child of God by Cormac McCarthy

Child of God - Cormac McCarthy

The Basics


Lester Ballard has never really been all there or fit into the community like he should. Now having lost everything, he’s forsaking what little restraint he may have had.


My Thoughts


This book was absolutely excellent. McCarthy is an intensely clever writer, and it kept hitting me across the face as I read this book. Such as the note that the first part of the story ends on, which is so succinct and perfect, showing the reader smoothly without telling. Or the moments when Ballard asked nature or life to perform a task, and it happened as he asked, enhancing the theme of Ballard being a “Child of God”. All the symbology of Ballard’s being forsaken in that same vein. The dry, dark humor sprinkled through the book, such as the scene of Ballard selling the watches or the vigilante group getting lost in the caves. It’s just so balanced, so perfectly weighed and measured, and such a fast read.


I said to a friend of mine, recommending the book, that this is like the Southern Gothic American Psycho, and I stand by that. It has that same, larger brilliance brought on by grisly subject matter, and Lester Ballard is as burned into my mind as Patrick Bateman. That does mean that it isn’t for the faint of heart. Ballard does some really terrible things, but for fans of transgressive literature, this is one of the best I’ve ever read.


McCarthy even managed to make me feel bad about a subject I’ve always been very “pro” on: autopsies. There was a time I thought I would become a forensic pathologist, and I’ve never understood anyone’s reluctance to examine a dead body for science or police investigation, based on what I feel like can be learned. I’m very pro-medical-science and learning and all that, and it never occurred to me to find the subject of human autopsy gross or dehumanizing. Until I read the passage in this book that deals with it in such a sad manner, turning a person into used parts and meat, and it just struck me as so horrific. Considering how strong my feelings have been on the topic for so long, for him to make me understand that other side of things in such a sudden and unexpected way, that takes some serious skill. I’m not saying that’s what he intended. I’m saying that was my personal experience, and to me it exemplified the power of McCarthy’s writing.


I could go on and on. It’s a really brilliant piece. I wish everyone would read it, even though I understand some readers might be too sensitive for a book like this. It says so much in such a short space, and if you can handle it, please look into this one.


Final Rating