Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Review: "Fortunate Son" by Walter Mosley

While the last Walter Mosley book I read, The Man in My Basement, was a racially charged tale in the framework of a Twilight Zone Episode, the novel of his I just read about a week ago, Fortunate Son, is more of a hard boiled erotic thriller that deals with some of the same issues in a less direct way. For that, I think it is a much more memorable book than The Man in My Basement. Both books craft their two protagonists in a way that makes them symbols for ways racial relations have changed throughout America’s history, and does so in a way that makes them more than symbols, allowing their pain and anguish and joy resonate in the reader’s hearts as well as their intellect. I just think Fortunate Son does it a bit better, even though I prefer the storyline in The Man in My Basement to this one. Having said that, this book is really incredible. It is intense when it needs to be, and packs an emotional punch that anyone, white or black will be able to relate to. The plot concerns two children who were born around the same time whose lonely parents somehow found each other and fell in love. Minas, a wealthy and renowned doctor, has just lost his wife to the birth of their son, Eric. Branwyn, a poor black woman, just gave birth to her son, Tommy, whose father Elton cruelly leaves her without any means of support. Eventually these two lonely people begin a fragile romance that is not meant to last. Elton comes back into Tommy’s life after Branwyn tragically dies. Since Minas and Branwyn never married, Tommy is forced to leave his home he shared with Eric, who he came to know as his brother. The novel follows the two boys lives after the split, which are very different. Eric grows into a pretty blond-haired boy who seems blessed with an endless supply of good fortune in school and in sports. He gets the girls, and is on the fast track to success. But, after a conversation with his dad’s superstitious housekeeper, Ahn, he feels he isn’t so much blessed with good fortune, but cursed with the ability to take good fortune away from those that he loves. Tommy, on the other hand, is an easily injured boy who finds himself in a world filled with violence and hopelessness. From Elton’s abusive ways, to the hard streets he ends up working on as a drug dealer and eventually living on as a vagrant. These two meet eventually, and try to make light of the tragic circumstances that brought them together. The book is filled with tense moments, like when Tommy, as a drug runner, is almost raped by a junkie, and the odd sex sequence between Christie, Eric’s wife and the man she left for Eric, Drew. The novel succeeds in making you sympathetic for the burden Eric must contend with, even though our gut reaction is to hate him for the things he might be causing. But in the end, his love for his brother Tommy makes him heroic and noble. If you get a chance, check this book out, or anything by Mosley, he will not disappoint.

Rating: 5/5

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