Best Boy: A Novel (Hardcover)
Ron's Holiday Staff Pick, December 2015:
For the bibliophile.
In Best Boy, Gottlieb tells the story of Todd Aaron, a 50 something year-old autistic man, who gets the name Best Boy because that’s what he’s called by all the residents of Payton Living Center, the community where he’s lived the last 40 years.
Todd’s heightened sensitivity to all things is made livable by the peaceful routines of his life in the community. When these are disturbed by a new roommate and a new member of the Payton Living Center staff, Todd, who senses danger, must find a way to cope.
Told in the first person, Best Boy captures the emotions, perceptions and inner voice of this intelligent, generous autistic man.
It’s a portrait worthy of the finest museum.
OK, it’s true, I have a special place in my heart for Eli Gottlieb because he was the first author to visit Off the Beaten Path after its move to 9th Street in 2008. But that doesn’t get him a pass; he’s just a good writer, and Best Boy proves it.
September 2015 Indie Next List
“Gottlieb gifts us with the character of Todd Aaron, a middle-aged autistic man whose life in an institution takes a turn from a model of medically controlled routines he readily and ideally adapts to, to a year of disturbing changes with the arrivals of a volatile roommate, a cunning staff member, and a beguiling one-eyed girl, all who threaten his sense of equilibrium and reignite Todd's desire for the comforts of his original home. Tender and humorous memories linger well after reading this amazingly insightful story.”
— Mark Ingraham (E), Powell's Books, Inc, Portland, OR
New York Times Editor's Choice
People Magazine Pick of the Week
A Washington Post Notable Book
Library Journal Top Ten Books of 2015
BookPage Top Five Books of 2015
For fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time comes this landmark novel about autism, memory, and, ultimately, redemption.
Sent to a “therapeutic community” for autism at the age of eleven, Todd Aaron, now in his fifties, is the “Old Fox” of Payton LivingCenter. A joyous man who rereads the encyclopedia compulsively, he is unnerved by the sudden arrivals of a menacing new staffer and a disruptive, brain-injured roommate. His equilibrium is further worsened by Martine, a one-eyed new resident who has romantic intentions and convinces him to go off his meds to feel “normal” again. Undone by these pressures, Todd attempts an escape to return “home” to his younger brother and to a childhood that now inhabits only his dreams. Written astonishingly in the first-person voice of an autistic, adult man, Best Boy—with its unforgettable portraits of Todd’s beloved mother, whose sweet voice still sings from the grave, and a staffer named Raykene, who says that Todd “reflects the beauty of His creation”—is a piercing, achingly funny, finally shattering novel no reader can ever forget.
About the Author
Eli Gottlieb is the author of Best Boy, among other novels. His works have been translated into a dozen languages. He lives in New York City.
Affecting…. Todd’s is an engaging and nuanced consciousness, so vital that the reader feels profound tenderness—and distinct fear—as this sweet man ventures out into the world…. As ill-advised as his flight might be, we stand on the ground below…enchanted by the simplicity of his soaring.
— Bret Anthony Johnston
Engrossing…. Taking us into Todd's consciousness where emotions are visceral sensations, Gottlieb beautifully illuminates a little-understood world.
Arresting…. The book’s empathy is bracing.
Raw and beautiful…. With a mesmerizingly rhythmic narration…. What rises and shines from the page is Todd Aaron, a hero of such singular character and clear spirit that you will follow him anywhere. You won’t just root for him, you will fight and push and pray for him to wrest control of his future. You will read this book in one sitting or maybe two, and, I promise, you will miss this man deeply when you are done.
— Ann Bauer
Fascinating…. Gottlieb's imaginings of what's going on in the mind of an adult living somewhere on the autism spectrum feel credible and real…. Lyrical.
— Carol Memmott
Readers will cheer—and shudder—for intelligent, compassionate Todd as he grows in this powerfully sad slice-of-life title.
— Douglas Lord
Powerful and engaging…. Gottlieb has created something quite exceptional in [Todd Aaron]. His interior life and psychology are convincingly drawn…. A deeply moving portrait of a kind and gentle soul. Recommended for all readers.
— Patrick Sullivan
[An] eloquent, sensitive rendering of a marginalized life…. Gottlieb merits praise for both the endearing eloquence of Todd's voice and a deeply sympathetic parable that speaks to a time when rising autism rates and long-lived elders force many to weigh tough options.
Amid the flood of books about autism in childhood comes this gripping novel about the fresher territory of autism in midlife. It is written with elan, wit, and great empathy, and it limns in fiction the crisis our nation faces in real life as we try to construct viable supports for this burgeoning population.
— Andrew Solomon
This astonishing story of goodness and resilience, about the adventure of loving and being loved, is a marvel of Wordsworthian perception, inviting us to behold existence through unclouded eyes, with an unguarded heart, as though we and the world had never grown apart. The music of consciousness playing in these pages will stay with you long after you've finished reading. A literary experience of piercing, invigorating, profound humanity. A homecoming that restores the mind and soul.
— Walter Kirn
Best Boy is a remarkable achievement—an intimate and convincing portrayal of what the world looks like from inside the mind of a mentally handicapped but unusually sensitive, observant, and decent man.
— Alison Lurie
I've fallen in love with Best Boy, touched by its delicacy and fearless truths.
— Cynthia Ozick
In the clear-as-a-tinkling-bell voice of Todd Aaron, Gottlieb reveals how certain events and experiences cause this fiftysomething man with autism to suddenly go into a post-post-post-adolescent rebellion…. But in the way of all things happening for a reason, Gottlieb’s marvelous novel has happened so that readers may be in awe of all the universe’screations.
— Donna Chavez
The latest from Gottlieb (The Boy Who Went Away) is written through the perspective of Todd: his voice is spectacular, oscillating between casual and obsessive and frequently challenging the stereotypes that haunt those with autism and similar conditions. The story will appeal to a very broad range of readers: it’s a fast read, and the plot is never less than captivating…. Gottlieb’s attention to crafting Todd’s internal monologue is something to behold.