Reading about addiction is a difficult to thing to endure, but like addiction itself, making your way through a book like Beautiful Boy is a reward seldom experienced. David Scheff’s son Nic is lying, stealing, and living on the streets to support his methamphetamine addiction at age 17. David must endure the trauma of watching his son dive into the spiral of addiction but his heroic struggle to escape it.
I want to say something like ‘this is not a book for those who are inexperienced with addiction and will be shocked by stories of drug use’ but perhaps those most inexperienced with addiction will be removed enough to appreciate the heroics and struggles of David Scheff and his son. If, however, one were to read this book with reference or memory to a personal experience with addiction (be it popsicles, aerospace museums or sandwiches), David Scheff seems to me like a true saint who provides intimate details of the successes and failures of his son barely surviving his addiction while connecting his condition to the national pandemic of meth addiction. However, I wonder if much of the poignancy and import of this book escapes those who are inexperienced with addiction (or perhaps parenting). David Scheff, a journalist by trade, perfectly re-creates his son’s struggle. He is knowledgeable enough to know the universal experience of the disease that is addiction, but aware also of the persistent importance of individual narratives of addiction, which he is willing to provide and in so doing contribute to the endless and very necessary storyline of addiction/recovery narratives.
Beautiful Boy is important for everyone because it warns against silence about drugs: silent parents not discussing drugs with children, silent teachers not educating students about drugs, and a silent society criminalizing and exiling into prisons those addicted to drugs. Beautiful Boy proclaims that the only necessary reward for the father for his struggle with his son’s addiction is his son’s recovery, his son’s return to himself, and in this proclamation the book forces us to explore the image of a society that would – like a father or mother – choose to care for and heal those stricken by meth addiction.