Census by Jesse Ball

Into the Wild


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A powerful and moving new novel from an award-winning, acclaimed author: in the wake of a devastating revelation, a father and son journey north across a tapestry of towns

When a widower receives notice from a doctor that he doesn’t have long left to live, he is struck by the question of who will care for his adult son—a son whom he fiercely loves, a boy with Down syndrome. With no recourse in mind, and with a desire to see the country on one last trip, the man signs up as a census taker for a mysterious governmental bureau and leaves town with his son. 

Traveling into the country, through towns named only by ascending letters of the alphabet, the man and his son encounter a wide range of human experience. While some townspeople welcome them into their homes, others who bear the physical brand of past censuses on their ribs are wary of their presence. When they press toward the edges of civilization, the landscape grows wilder, and the towns grow farther apart and more blighted by industrial decay. As they approach “Z,” the man must confront a series of questions: What is the purpose of the census? Is he complicit in its mission? And just how will he learn to say good-bye to his son? 

Mysterious and evocative, Census is a novel about free will, grief, the power of memory, and the ferocity of parental love, from one of our most captivating young writers.

Title : Census
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 0062676156
Edition Language : English
Format Type : ebook
Number of Pages : 272 pages


Angela M rated it ★★★★☆

February 14, 2018

There were a few times that I wanted to put this book aside because I wasn’t getting what was happening in this society, this country with unnamed towns designated by letters from A-Z. I wasn’t understanding what this census was all about, why this unnamed agency of the government was conducting...

Truman32 rated it ★★★☆☆

March 19, 2018

An unnamed widower receives news from his doctor that he is suffering from a fatal condition and will shortly die. He quits his medical practice and loads his adored son, a boy with Down Syndrome, into his car and takes off across the country to render the census. He is hoping to spend these flee...

Jennifer rated it ★★★★★

April 03, 2018

Absolutely stunning. Census is a deeply personal novel for Jesse Ball and you need to know this before starting the book. Mr. Ball has a thorough introduction that shares his inspiration for this novel: his brother Abram. Unfortunately, Abram is now deceased but Mr. Ball gifts readers with a lovi...

Jill rated it ★★★★☆

March 29, 2018

I am an unabashed fan of Jesse Ball. I’ve read many of his books – The Curfew, The Lesson, Silence Once Begun, A Cure for Suicide, How to Set a Fire & Why – and have often marveled at his metafictional, fablelike, and sometimes provocative works. But this time it’s personal – for the author an...

Jessica rated it ★★★★☆

March 13, 2018

It's no secret that I'm a Jesse Ball fanatic. I think he's one of the most exciting living writers. I hold his novels on a high pedestal, and find that he is unmatched in his ability to write surreal, experimental, abstract, yet still accessible works of fiction. I liked Census quite a bit, but it...

Marianne rated it ★★★★★

April 24, 2018

4.5★s “My wife and I always spoke of making a trip together to show our son the country, but it never came. For one reason or another, it never came, and so I felt when my wife passed, when the idea rose in me about the census, I felt finally it was time to take out the Stafford, to drive the road...

Joachim rated it ★★★★★

May 08, 2017

After Silence once begun and A Cure for suicide I had high expectations of the latest Jesse Ball, but Census didn't disappoint at all. It's an absolute triumph of imagination, writing skills and finesse. More than with his previous books there is a lot of -personal- emotion involved. Don't miss th...

Neil rated it ★★★★☆

February 18, 2018

This was my first experience of a Jesse Ball novel. I did however come across him in Granta magazine’s "Best of Young American Novelists" where he wrote a short story called "A Wooden Taste is the Word for Dam a Wooden Taste is the Word for Dam a Wooden Taste is the Word for" which was startlingl...

Travis rated it ★★★★☆

March 14, 2018

I considered giving up once or twice during the first half of this slim book and am very glad I didn't.

Drew rated it ★★★★★

February 13, 2018

5+ out of 5. Ball returns to his more oblique work here (after 2016's much-more-realistic How to Set a Fire and Why) but this book feels as distinct from any other of his works as every other of his works. It is perhaps his best yet - a beautiful, moving portrait: of a father and son, of a child...

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