Sheff's book chronicles the life of his first son, Nic, a child of divorced parents who is shuffled between his mother and father's homes via air planes. The first chapters of Sheff's detail a seemingly idilic life for young Nic filled with books, hikes, and surfing. Nic excels in private schools, taking on everything from the swim team to the school newspaper, and along the way gaining a stepfather, stepmother and little siblings Daisy and Jasper, who he appears to adore.
Nic starts smoking pot during high school and gets drunk on a family vacation. Then his parents send him to a summer program in Paris, where it appears that he drinks so much, he comes home with a stomach ulcer. Eventually, Nic and his father's relationship becomes more tenuous, and on the night of his high school graduation, Nic takes E.
From there the story meanders along Nic's seemingly endless journey of drug abuse and recovery, and his father's parallel journey of anguish, guilt, worry and despair. Sheff's book is heartbreaking and at points, you find yourself wanting to scream at Nic's relapses (not advisable on your morning train commute).
While Beautiful Boy is a compelling account of a father's struggle to understand his son's addiction, at times I found it to be terribly slow (which sounds awful given the serious subject matter). In the epilogue and afterword, Sheff says that Nic has published a memoir, Tweak and upon further Googling, it appears that he has also penned another book, We All Fall Down. I think that at least one of these will be going onto the 100 Book List; I think it will be interesting to hear Nic's side of things.