Alice & Oliver

FRESH AIR/ NPR   "Alice & Oliver is both haunting and raw — a rare novel about cancer that, in this case, doesn't try to find meaning in serious illness, but rather gives its random malevolence its full due."

ASSOCIATED PRESS  "Inspired by his own family's struggle with cancer, Bock's writing will crush readers in the best possible way."

TORONTO GLOBE & MAIL  "Charles Bock's Alice & Oliver could be the greatest novel ever written about cancer."

LOS ANGELES TIMES  "Whose help will you want when you're forced to face your own mortality up close?  'My husband' or 'my wife' are excellent answers, but Bock offers us a forceful reminder that there are plenty of roiling emotions beneath that till-death-do-us-part." 

NEWSDAY     "A heartbreaking story of cancer and a marriage." ... "Much as I loved this novel, the acknowledgements at the end — where Bock speaks candidly about the origins of this story and its connections to real life — made me love it twice as much.  

WASHINGTON POST     "(Bock displays a) tough-minded commitment to truth-telling and to honoring the complexities, contradictions and even the cruelties of people under extreme duress. Lasting damage and lasting loyalties are equally part of the human condition."  

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE   "On one level, (Alice & Oliver) survives as proof of the bottomless love Bock feels for his late wife and a record for his daughter, who never got the chance to know her mother. But it’s also a testament to the resilience of humans and our willingness to forgive... Our time here on Earth is messy, Bock’s novel reminds us. The real marrow of life is what we do when we’re busy surviving.

 KIRKUS REVIEWS, STARRED REVIEW   Among the phrases used:  "Stunning," "real act of genius," and "one of the most moving (books) in memory."

BOOKLIST, STARRED REVIEW   "A nail-biting suspense novel that plunges headfirst into a terrifying circumstance that sends a beautiful, vibrant young mother's life into a tailspin ... Loving and memorable... Bock tells a tale that holds a penetrating mirror to our worst fears."

PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY:  "A spellbinding book, pulsating with life and reminding the reader on every page that even when everything is as awful as it could possibly be, life itself is always a curious thing...  A beautiful, complex portrait of a family in crisis."

O Magazine:  "Must read.   Hauntingly powerful ... A stirring elegy to marriage.

LIBRARY JOURNAL, STARRED REVIEW:  "Readers will fall in love with Alice Culvert from the moment she bounces onto the page...  A searingly honest, wryly funny, deeply loving tribute to those facing mortality and struggling through the maze of health insurance and treatment options while trying to hold onto their humanity."

DuJuor Magazine:  THE NEXT MUST-READ NOVEL.  "While there is much to admire in Alice & Oliver, from small flurries of arresting description to its blanket heartbreaking effect, perhaps its greatest triumph is that in facing the ultimate unanswerable tragedy, Bock seems to have finally found something like an answer to that incessant question: What are we supposed to do now? 


Alice & Oliver is a wrenchingly powerful novel. Charles Bock chronicles the daily struggles of a young wife and mother facing her own imminent mortality. This is a soul portrait of a family in crisis, written with a fearless clarity and a deep understanding of the bonds that can hold two people together even in the darkest hour.”—Richard Price
“I was amazed that such a heartbreaking narrative could also affirm, on every page, why we love this frustrating world and why we hold on to it for as long as we can. Alice Culvert is a character of such fight and such spirit, such thrumming aliveness, that she takes on an epic dimension. Charles Bock has stared down life’s most difficult questions to write a truly revelatory, truly great book.”—Joshua Ferris
“The sun is rising, and I am only now looking up from the closing lines of Charles Bock’s astonishing Alice & Oliver. I can’t remember the last time I stayed up all night to finish a book. This novel laid me waste. It was so beautiful, so perfectly realized, so lavishly and gorgeously written, so eviscerating, and, most of all, so very true.”—Ayelet Waldman
“Desperately moving and beautifully life-affirming, Alice & Oliver is a study in the power love has to give purpose to existence. Bock dramatizes what we all hope for in our lives: that the love we give will be stronger than the limits of our personality. This luminous and unforgettable novel will leave an indelible mark on the literature of our time.”—Matthew Thomas
Alice & Oliver is a scorchingly honest description of cancer’s indignities and the toll they take on human relationships; it is, equally, an unparalleled narrative description of intimacy, of how devotion can by turns exalt and humiliate its victims. The book chronicles betrayal: how we betray one another and how our bodies betray us. Like other fine elegies, it is redemptive and devastating, testimony to a love so violently real that it seems to obliterate any other possible truth.”—Andrew Solomon
“Charles Bock has written a profound and radiant novel, and what particularly amazes me is that he has created such beauty from the fluorescent lights of hospital corridors, from uncomfortable New York City apartments, from a family doing what it takes to survive. Alice & Oliver is at once a very sad novel, and also a happy one, full of the hope of finding ways to love each little moment of our lives. It shows us how love and compassion can always serve as guides whenever we feel most lost.”—Rivka Galchen



"One word: bravo."  The New York Times Book Review

"Truly powerful .. Beautiful Children dazzles its readers on almost every page... [Charles Bock] knows how to tug at your heart, and he knows how to make you laugh out loud, often on the same page, sometimes in the same sentence."  Newsweek

“Exceptional . . . This novel deserves to be read more than once because of the extraordinary importance of its subject matter.”The Washington Post Book World
“Magnificent . . . a hugely ambitious novel that succeeds . . . Beautiful Children manages to feel completely of its moment while remaining unaffected by literary trends. . . . Charles Bock is the real thing.”The New Republic
“A wildly satisfying and disturbing literary journey, led by an author of blazing talent.”The Dallas Morning News
“Wholly original—dirty, fast, and hypnotic. The sentences flicker and skip and whirl.”Esquire



Credit for image on splash page (from the poster, Haiku on 42nd Street),  Richard Hunt.