In this exhaustive tome, former People magazine writer Carlin chronicles the lives of the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson. By now the Wilson story is well-known, and Carlin doesn't stray much from the script: Wilson's abuse at the hands of his cantankerous father, Murry; his decline into depression; his drug use; and the band's slide from the top of the charts, singing about surfing and fast cars, to the depths of despair and, ultimately, Wilson's redemptive 2004 release of Smile. While the major beats of the story may not be news to fans, Carlin's comprehensive research adds an entirely welcome perspective. Based on numerous primary interviews, and parsing through hundreds of hours of unreleased studio tape, he succeeds in rendering an immediate and often heart-wrenching look at both the psychological abuse and the artistic muse that prodded Wilson to greatness and paralyzing depression. In one memorable passage drawn from the studio session tape, Carlin renders the torment endured by Wilson at the hands of his father during the recording of the hit "Help Me, Rhonda." It is moments like these, mixed in with Carlin's sober insights, that raise this effort a cut above the standard rock biography.
- Publisher's Weekly