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Census

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About the Book

NAMED ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2018 BY

The New York Times The Chicago Reader Nylon  The Huffington Post • The Rumpus   The AV Club • Southern Living • The Millions • Buzzfeed

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.

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Critical Praise

“Ball’s latest is an intensely moving and dazzlingly imagined journey...This novel is a devastatingly powerful call for understanding and compassion.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“An ethereal meditation on love, the duty of a caretaker, and mortality.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Ball writes dystopia and fabulism with a hushed, poetic grace; as with his other work, Census promises to be beautifully and precisely wrought.” —AV Club

“In sync with Italo Calvino, Paul Auster, and Howard Norman, Ball takes a matter-of-fact approach to surreal situations, which he deepens with finely rendered and realistic thoughts and emotions. His latest mysterious, mesmerizing, and insightful fairy tale… [is] mind-bending, gorgeously well told, and profoundly moving.”   —Booklist (starred review)

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9780062676139
  • ISBN 10: 006267613X
  • Imprint: Ecco
  • On Sale: 03/06/2018
  • Pages: 272
  • List Price: 31.99 CAD
  • BISAC1: FICTION / Literary
  • BISAC2: FICTION / Family Life
  • BISAC3: FICTION / Dystopian

Census by Jesse Ball

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