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Fortunate SonReview - Fortunate Son
A Novel
by Walter Mosley
Time Warner Audio, 2006
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Jun 13th 2006 (Volume 10, Issue 24)

Walter Mosley writes excellent crime novels set in 1960s Los Angeles that explore the African American culture of that era. However, he likes to write novels in other genres, such as existential dramas, science fiction, and now a family saga. These are far less successful: they seem to have higher ambitions, but are plagued by heavy symbolism, weak characterization, and thin social commentary. Fortunate Son is especially tiresome. Two boys are born at the same time; Tommy is black, Eric is white. Tommy is born with a heart defect and nearly dies in his first months. Eric is so healthy he is uncontainable, but his mother died in childbirth. Tommy and his poor single mother join Eric and his doctor father to form one family. The two boys come to consider themselves brothers. Then the boys become separated in childhood, and the novel follows their lives. Tommy comes to be known as Lucky, because he isn't. In fact, his life is full of suffering and difficulty. The blond and blue-eyed white Eric is precocious, intellectually, physically, and sexually. He plays tennis with incredible skill, able to defeat strong players much older than him. He graduates from high school at 15. And he is conquering women with his animal magnetism and enormous penis early in his teens. Yet he is also isolated and since his separation from Lucky, he finds it very hard to connect to other people.

The novel moves rapidly through the major life events of Lucky and Eric, as they go through incredible trials in their encounters powerful men and devoted or unreliable women. As a psychological drama, the story does not hold the reader's attention because the characters seem more like placeholders for ideas rather than real people. The plot is unbelievable in its details, and it seems more like a parable or a modern myth than a document of the contemporary world. Yet often the story feels more like a soap opera rather than a serious novel. It takes determination to keep on reading, yet this effort is not rewarded, because the story amounts to so little. The plot unfolds and just leaves the reader puzzled as to what it meant to mean.

Lorraine Toussaint reads the unabridged audiobook, and she makes the experience far more bearable -- I would never have finished the book if I had been turning the pages myself. Her performance is steady and spirited, but she isn't able to redeem this disappointing novel.

 

 

 

 

Links to reviews of other Walter Mosley novels:

 

2006 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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