Audiobook Month [look, they're behind as well] or Week, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't.) Since I returned from vacation, I've been reading long books in an attempt to find some time to catch up with the blogging, but I'm still listening at a pretty rapid clip (even though I've not started walking again). So, here's number one of the six (and counting) books that are in the rear-view mirror -- a book I finished six weeks ago. (Herewith the disclaimer of not-able-to-remember-much.)
Walter Mosley is one of those authors I keep meaning to read, but never have; so when I was casting about at the shelves looking for something that I could finish up before I left on vacation and spotted Fortunate Son, I decided to give it a listen. (Of course, I had to check first to make sure I wasn't picking up an Easy Rawlins book mid-series, oh the horror!) I'm not sure I understood it. I think it is meant to be a fable.
Tommy Beerman was born prematurely with lung problems, and has lived in neonatal intensive care at the hospital ever since. His mother, Brianna, visits him as often as she can but she needs to work and the hospital is a long way across Los Angeles (by bus) from her work and home. Late one night, Dr. Minas Nolan spots her waiting for her bus and offers her a ride home. Minas is a grieving new father, as his wife died giving birth to their son -- the hale and hearty Eric. Soon he is taking Brianna home every night. Brianna is black and Minas is white. They become lovers and Minas convinces Brianna that the only way Tommy will survive is if she brings her frail son home. Brianna and Tommy move into Minas' mansion, Brianna begins nurturing the motherless Eric and the boys -- different in race but in many other ways as well -- grow close.
Brianna dies when the boys are about eight or nine, and Tommy's birthfather -- uninterested in him until now -- removes him from the Nolan's home. Tommy is neglected, soon figures out how to stop attending school (where he is bullied), and begins living on the street working for a local drug dealer. Eric rages against the losses in his life and becomes an overachieving, but emotionally distant, athlete and student. The boys' paths will cross again.
The title is ironic (I think) as the "fortunate" son (Eric) can't make human connections, while the less fortunate Tommy experiences jail, beatings, rape, hunger and social isolation (all before he's 20 years old), but retains his humanity. It all seemed a bit obvious to me, but maybe I've completely missed the point. The moral of the fable is ... there is more than one way to be fortunate? As I said, fairly obvious. So, I listened to this book anticipating some additional enlightenment, some twist, some complexity. It never came. I didn't care for it much.
Lorraine Toussaint reads the novel. I enjoyed listening to her deep, silky voice which switches easily from the urban black inflections of Tommy's relatives and acquaintances to Minas' patrician and slightly Scandinavian tones to an immigrant Chinese housekeeper to a black woman on her way to law school. Tommy's gentle soul is evident in her interpretation, as is the remote and aloof Eric. Her narrative voice is pleasing, but accurately reflects the situations in which the two boys find themselves. As a woman, she is an interesting choice to tell this story, but she does a fine job.
I'm not much of a music listener (I hardly ever listen to music now that there are audiobooks), and I never have been. But in my youth, I loved Creedence Clearwater Revival (why? that is a very good question ... those guys were bad boys and I was mostly a good girl). All the time I was listening to this book, one of the other tracks of my brain is saying, "Wasn't there a song with this title?" Why yes there is and it's from CCR and it's the favorite song of those who cared enough to vote for their favorite at that website. Let's pause for a short trip down memory lane. (Post title is the song's chorus.)
[The 1968 photo of CCR appears to be in the public domain as it was published without a copyright notice. It was retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.]
Fortunate Son by Walter Mosley
Narrated by Lorraine Toussaint
Time Warner AudioBooks (now Hachette), 2006. 9:25