Mosley's 'Fortunate Son' Tells Two Tales

'Fortunate Son: A Novel' by Walter Mosley

'Fortunate Son: A Novel' by Walter Mosley hide caption

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Walter Mosley's Fortunate Son is a novel about two boys from Southern California, one black and one white, who are as close as brothers. But the paths their lives take could not be more different.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Walter Mosley's writing crosses many genres. He is author of the popular Easy Rawlins mystery series, as well as science fiction and mainstream novels.

His latest work belongs to that last category. It's called Fortunate Son. Alan Cheuse has a review.

ALAN CHEUSE reporting:

Here's the story of two boys from Southern California--one black, the other white--who are as close as brothers by birth. Thomas is the black kid, born out of wedlock and with a serious physical impairment to a woman determined to make a decent life for them both.

Eric is the white boy, son of a widowed surgeon who takes the infant Tommy and his mother into his household. And then Tommy's mother dies, leaving him to the care of the doctor and an Asian nanny.

Thus we have the setup for an engrossing fable cloaked in the everyday details of L.A. life of the rich and poor. Eric, the doctor's natural son, shows a good profile and a strong will, winning at sports and in love without much real effort. Thomas, the black waif plagued by physical problems and a lot of just plain bad luck, gets yanked out of the wealthy household by his putative father, runs away, lives in the alleys and streets of a tough part of town his white brother in spirit will never know.

As you read along, you recognize that Mosley is a natural storyteller, someone whose instincts for tuning the plot make every which way it goes the right way. Even in the lovemaking scenes, and there are a number of them that would earn the book if it were movie a hard R if not an X rating, the prose seems a bit more neutral and less engaging than the charged inflected language of Mosley's Easy Rawlins books, but frankly, in the case of the heart-spirited new work of fiction, whether or not Mosley thought he was writing a fable or a work of intense realism doesn't matter.

The book pulls you along, and for the reader, that's the most important fact about any work of fiction.

SIEGEL: The novel is fortunate son, by Walter Mosley. Our reviewer Alan Cheuse teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

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