Census by Jesse Ball


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...

Details Census

Release DateMar 6th, 2018
GenreFiction, Literary Fiction, Science Fiction, Dystopia

Reviews Census

  • Angela M
    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 it. It was just too philosophical in places. But I couldn’t stop thinking about what Jesse Ball tells us in the introduction: “It occurred to me ...
  • Cheri
    ”Mama whispered softly time will ease your painLife's about changing nothing ever stays the sameAnd she said how can I help you to say goodbye it's okay to hurt and it's okay to cryCome let me hold you and I will try How can I help you to say goodbye” --How Can I Help You Say Goodbye, Patty Loveless, Songwriters: Burton Collins / Karen Taylor-GoodA father and son journey follows the father receiving the news from a doctor that he hasn’t muc...
  • Truman32
    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 fleeting remaining moments traveling and experiencing life with the one he loves most before he is forced to say goodbye forever.And so starts one of the mos...
  • Jennifer
    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 loving and tender meet-and-greet with this beautiful soul throughout the story. Abram lived with Down syndrome which gave Mr. Ball a front-row seat to how Ab...
  • Jill
    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 and perhaps for this reader, too. Jesse Ball dedicates the book to his deceased brother, Abram Ball, who had Down Syndrome, and in the prologue, writ...
  • Jessica Sullivan
    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's not the most intellectually exciting Ball novel, nor is it one that I would recommend to first-time Ball readers. Like most of his other books, there'...
  • Marianne
    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 roads north. In her death, I felt a sure beginning of my own end – I felt I could certainly not last much longer, and so, as life is vested in variety,...
  • Joachim Stoop
    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 this one!
  • Neil
    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 startlingly original enough for me to think I needed to read more and therefore to not turn my back on a chance to get a review copy of Census via NetGalley. My ...
  • Travis Foster
    I considered giving up once or twice during the first half of this slim book and am very glad I didn't.
  • Drew
    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 with Down syndrome, of the practice of taking a census, of the relationship between a person and their world. It's also the most loving of letters betwee...
  • Robert Wechsler
    This is the most successful of the three of his novels I’ve read so far by this excellent young writer. It feels a lot like a recent J. M. Coetzee novel in its bareness, its unusual father-son relationship, and its odd engagements with people along the way. Ball’s style works perfectly here in the mouth of a doctor traveling north to die, knowing that his son with Down syndrome will have to move on to new caregivers.The novel is moving in a v...
  • Kasa Cotugno
    How prescient this book's title? Census. When was the last time this process generated controversy. A correct census is necessary for so many reasons, but none of them are the focus of Jesse Ball's humane and bewitching novel. The landscape is rustbelt, but with a difference. Our unnamed narrator, a widower, has received a final diagnosis. Having been a surgeon, he is aware of the implications and doesn't question it, and decides to ditch is prof...
  • Robert Blumenthal
    This is a very strange but ultimately wonderfully moving novel. There are traces of Samuel Beckett, Jose Saramago and some Cormac McCarthy thrown in. The writing is sparse, somewhat repetitive at times (e.g., the author will write, She asked me what I was doing. What are you doing, she asked me) and the narrative proceeds in little vignettes, many of which are difficult to see the meaning of. And yet, the last 20 or so pages are amongst the most ...
  • Kristina
    Jesse Ball is a genius. This is my third book from the author and he never ceases to amaze me. This book is about an ailing father and his son that go on a road trip to complete the census. However, this book is far more than just that statement. It's about a son with intellectual disabilities and a father that describes their past experiences while engaging in new memories by travelling and meeting new people. The world created is almost dystopi...
  • Steven Felicelli
    the story's back story is quite moving and the story itself is, per usual for Ball, brilliant
  • Matthew
    A very moving and inventive novel about love and loss, the bonds of family, human capacity for both good and evil, and fathers and sons. It took me a while to get into the rhythm of Ball's prose but once I did it was well worth it. Loved this book.
  • Jordan Davidson
    I wanted to like this, but I was disappointed. There were glimmers of moments where the book could have been fantastic, touching, and interesting, but those moments became lost in a sea of plotless philosophizing about nothing and over-explaining the most inane of things. (For example, I do not care how or why the narrator is bad at puzzles, I'm not sure why any reader would care, and I'm not sure why the narrator chooses to wax on and on for pag...
  • Bob Lopez
    Hmm. It just wasn't...enough. There wasn't enough of any of it--the weird world they live in, the actual relationship with his son, I wanted more of that. I got a fair bit near the end when they cut the roadtrip short.
  • Sini
    Een aantal jaren geleden wees Ellen IJzerman (toen Dizzie, nu Hebban) mij op de jonge Amerikaanse schrijver Jesse Ball. Nooit van gehoord, maar de kennismaking was aangenaam: ik las meteen alle vier romans die hij toen geschreven had, en nam mij voor hem te bljven volgen. Ik hou namelijk wel van zijn dichterlijke en parabelachtige stijl, waarin steeds verwondering doorklinkt en al het wezenlijke alleen tussen de regels door wordt gesuggereerd. En...
  • Tamara Jaffe-Notier
    I became so obsessed with reading and re-reading this novel that I forgot to review it. One of Ball's gifts is to startle readers enough that for a few moments we might believe that communion is possible. The protagonist is a doctor who has become a census taker in a world the logic of which exists for the reader who is willing to suspend disbelief. The doctor travels with his son, a young man with a pure soul, whose intellectual understanding is...
  • Tamara Evans
    A touching story of a father and son on a cross county journey in which the father (a former doctor) performs the tasks of taking the census accompanied by his son who has Down syndrome. The story begins with the father preparing his son for the long trip and through additional chapters, the reader learns more about the purpose of the trip which is to show his son the world before he dies. I found it interesting how honest people become with stra...
  • Paul
    Jesse Ball’s novels are a kind erasure of known space, almost like a blank, white mind in meditation, where elements are added, one piece at a time, until strange little worlds have been constructed; these little worlds are made of human elements and are marked by familiarities, but they also feel like they exist in dream-space and don’t operate within the daily place that we inhabit. I see this ability as his gift in writing, and the thing I...
  • Courtney Judy
    Census really grabbed me from the introduction. The author provided a heart-warming and inspiring introduction that broke down the purpose of this novel, Down-Syndrome and the lack of real knowledge and understanding that most have about it. From the moment I finished the introduction, I was already hooked on the story and the characters. While there were times I found myself super confused by the number of characters introduced, all not staying ...
  • Chaitra
    I don't generally get Jesse Ball's books. I feel he writes in several levels, and it takes a while for me to figure out what's going on below the surface. Census is not about the census at all, but about an old man facing the end of his life. His problem is that he has a son of indeterminate age, who has Down's Syndrome. The mother has already passed on, and the father wants to take one last trip across the country of weirdly named provinces, fro...
  • Sonia Schoenfield
    I don't think I'm intelligent enough for this book. I would like to hear from someone who really liked it, who can tell me what was good about it. Nevertheless, I can tell you about it.This is a book with a story line, but no real plot. Told in the first person, a retired widowed doctor takes a trip with his (unnamed) son who has Down Syndrome. (Mostly I know this because of the jacket flap and the introduction, but the book is pretty much that) ...