The Fortunate Ones was one of those books I plowed through in just a few days. Author Ed Tarkington immerses the reader into the world of central character Charlie Boykin, a young man who lives in a low-income area of east Nashville with his single, cocktail-waitress mother, a former debutante who fled her wealthy upbringing when she got pregnant with Charlie and her family tried to force her to give him up.
Charlie is perfectly happy with his life especially the African American neighbors who take him in as one of their own. Everything changes, though, when Charlie’s mom secures a scholarship for him to attend a prestigious prep school, a school full old money Southerners, future senators and CEOs-in-the-making.
As a scholarship student, Charlie is a fish out of water until he’s taken under the wing of Arch Creigh. A popular, charismatic and also fatherless kid, Creigh pulls Charlie into the rarified world of privilege and rich kids who run wild without parental supervision. Charlie and Arch form a brotherly bond until a secret is exposed that rocks their tight-knit group of friends and sends Charlie running away from a crowd he never really felt at home with anyway.
The book reflects the disparity between rich and poor, black and white while uncovering the seedy side of politics. It also reveals how no matter how much money you have, you are not immune to addiction, illness (both physical and mental) and feelings of isolation.
On a personal note, I love the fact that some of of the story takes place in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, a magical town 170 miles outside Mexico City where my in-laws retired to about five years ago. It is one of my favorite places on earth, and I especially enjoyed the passages that really captured the beauty of this special place (it’s obvious the author has spent some time there himself), and it made me long for the day we can return.
THE FINAL WORD: The Fortunate Ones is part coming-of-age, part family dysfunction, part love story … but it is gorgeously written and a story that stayed with me long after I finished the last word. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
Thank you #NetGalley for inviting me to read this book.