The Son of Good Fortune (2020)
Author – Lysley Tenorio
Genre – Literary Fiction
Page Count – 304 pages
The Filipino-American writer challenges the American Dream in his latest novel, The Son of Good Fortune in the most honest but wholesome manner. The idea that anybody with good intentions, hardwork and determination can make it big in the land of dreams doesn’t hold up anymore.
Maxima and Excel are TNT – tago ng tago, hiding and hiding. Excel, who believed he was American for the first decade of his life, rarely thinks about anything else 9 years later. His secret and fear keeps him from making sound relationships and he finds himself floating somewhere between nationalities – he’s not here.
And that is the main sentiment behind the story which is poignant in every sentence. The one thing which made me love this book was that no word seems unnecessary or out of place. Everything fits in perfectly.
Maxima, once a small time movie star in the Philippines makes her way to California to start a new life with her yet unborn son, at the behest of her former master, Joker. But fate has other plans for her and she ends up delivering Excel in the plane.
Few years later, her American Dream has not come true. Forever hiding, she is unable to get a job and Excel is unable to go for higher education and so begins the cycle of what can only be called systemic racism. The author refrains from giving the situation a name but the injustice is evident.
Excel meets Sab and they both make their way to Hello City, a hippie town where people are hiding from one thing or another or building a life which they couldn’t anywhere else. While Sab quickly tires of HC, Excel feels at home – whether hiding or finding, it’s not obvious.
The book leaves a lot of moments for questions. Maxima runs a side business of hustling middle aged white men by signing up for websites for ‘good Filipina wives’ and that seems suspicious – but you are left thinking about the system which drives people into these things along with the subtle dig at fetishization.
The Son of Good Fortune hasn’t amassed as much attention as it should have and it is one of the underappreciated gems of 2020.
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