Fortunate Sonby Walter Mosley, Lorraine Toussaint
In spite of remarkable differences, Tommy and Eric are as close as brothers. Tommy, a delicate black boy, is cursed with health problems and drawn to trouble more often than not. Eric is a Nordic Adonis, graced by a seemingly endless supply of good fortune. When tragedy rips their makeshift family apart, the two boys are set on courses that diverge astonishingly. In a riveting tale of resilience and redemption that traces their parallel lives, Tommy and Eric ultimately reunite after years apart and draw on their childhood bond as they confront together the forces that threaten to destroy them.
Kristen L. Smith
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Fortunate SonA Novel
By Walter Mosley
Little, BrownCopyright © 2006 Walter Mosley
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHOMAS BEERMAN was born with a hole in his lung. Because of this birth defect, he spent the first six months of his life in the intensive care unit at Helmutt-Briggs, a hospital in West Los Angeles. The doctors told his mother, Branwyn, that most likely he would not survive.
"Newborns with this kind of disorder, removed from the physical love of their mothers, often wither," kind-eyed Dr. Mason Settler told her.
So she came to the hospital every day after work and watched over her son from six to eleven. She couldn't touch him because he was kept in a glass-enclosed, germ-free environment. But they stared into each other's eyes for hours every day.
Branwyn would read to the little boy and talk to him through the night after her shift at Ethel's Florist Shop.
"I know you must wonder why it's always me here and never your father," Branwyn said to her son one Thursday evening. "Elton has a lot of good qualities, but bein' a father is not one of them. He left me for one of my girlfriends less than a month after we found out I was having you. He told me that he'd stay if I decided not to have the baby. But Elton had the choice to be with me or not and you didn't. I couldn't ask you if you minded if I didn't have you and if you didn't have a lifeto live. No sunshine or sandy beaches. You don't even know what a sandy beach is. So I told Elton he could leave if he wanted to but I was havin' my baby.
"May Fine said that she'd be happy to be childless with a man like Elton. You know, your father is a good-looking man. He's got big muscles and a nice smile."
Branwyn smiled at Baby Thomas, who was then four months old. He grinned within his bubble and reached out, touching his mother's image in the glass.
"But you know," Branwyn continued, "May is gonna want a baby one day, and when she does, Elton and his good looks will be gone. And then she'll be worse off than me. It's like my mother said, 'That Elton's a heartbreak waitin' to happen.'
"So he's not here, and he probably won't be comin' around either. But that doesn't matter, Tommy, because I will be with you through thick and thin, rain and shine."
Branwyn brought children's books and read and sang to Thomas even when he was asleep and didn't seem to know she was there.
DR. MINAS NOLAN was a heart surgeon who had temporary offices across the hall from the intensive care unit where Thomas and his mother spent that half year. Nolan was a widower, young and hale. A week after Thomas was delivered, Dr. Nolan's wife, Joanne, had borne them a son. She died of complications thirty-six hours later. His son, Eric, came out weighing twelve pounds and twelve ounces, with a thick mane of blond hair, and arms and legs flailing. One of the nurses had commented that it was as if Eric had drained all of the life out of his mother from the inside, and by the time he was born, she was all used up.
Dr. Nolan often worked until eleven at night, when the ICU nurse on duty was forced by hospital regulations to ask Miss Beerman to leave. Branwyn always hesitated. She would have happily spent the whole night sleeping in a chair next to her baby. Then in the morning she could be the first thing he saw.
One evening, noticing the new mother linger at the unit door, Minas offered to walk Branwyn to her car.
"Oh, I don't have a car, Doctor," she said. "I get the bus down on Olympic." The dark-skinned Negro woman had a beautiful smile and nearly transparent gray eyes.
"Well, then let me drive you," the doctor offered.
"Oh, you don't have to do that. I live very far away."
"That doesn't matter," the doctor said. "I don't have much to go home for. You see, my wife died in childbirth recently -"
"You poor thing," Branwyn said, placing a hand on his forearm.
"Anyway, Eric, that's our boy, is usually asleep when I get home, and there's a nanny there ... and I'm not very tired."
Branwyn was taken by the doctor's handsome Nordic features. He was blond and blue-eyed, and his smile was kind.
They drove down to Branwyn's neighborhood near Crenshaw. He parked his silver Mercedes in front of her apartment building, and she said, "Thank you so much, Doctor. You know, it's a long trip on that bus at night."
There was a moment when neither of them talked or moved.
"Are you hungry, Miss Beerman?"
"Why ... yes I am, Dr. Nolan."
She wasn't really, but the way the doctor asked the question, she knew that he needed company. A man losing a wife like that would be lost in the world, she knew.
There was an all-night place called the Rib Joint on La Brea, run by a wild character named Fontanot. He was a six-foot-seven Texan who smoked his ribs in the backyard of the restaurant and whose great big laugh could be heard from a block away.
Fontanot had a long face and sad eyes. He was very dark-skinned and powerful, in both his limbs and his will. At that time, the Rib Joint was very popular with the Hollywood set. Movie stars, directors, and big-time producers came there every night. They ordered Fontanot's ribs for their private functions and often invited him to come along.
"I ain't got time for no parties," he'd say, shunning their invitations. "Make hay while the sun shines, that's what my mama always told me to do."
Fontanot did not fraternize much with the muckety-mucks from Hollywood. He laughed if they told a good joke, and he put ribs along with his homemade sauce on their tables.
When Minas and Branwyn came into the restaurant, sometime just before midnight, there was a line of at least a dozen parties waiting to be seated. Men and women were laughing and drinking and trying to get their names put ahead on the list. Minas hunted up a stool and put it against the jukebox so that Branwyn could get off her feet.
When Fontanot saw this simple gesture from the tiny window that looked out from his kitchen, he came out and shook hands with the doctor.
"Ira Fontanot," the restaurateur said.
"My name's Minas. Minas Nolan. And this is Miss Beerman."
"You two are in love," the sad-eyed giant informed them.
"Oh, no," they both said at the same time.
"You might not know it yet," Fontanot announced, "but you are in love. There's no helpin' that. All I need to know is if you're hungry or not."
"Starving," Minas Nolan said with a deep feeling in his tone that struck Branwyn.
"Then come on back to my special table and I will serve you some barbecue."
To be seated at the special table was the desire of every powerful customer at the Rib Joint. That table was there for Ira's mother and for his new girlfriend.
Minda, Ira's sainted mom, said that her son's girlfriends were always new.
"The lady he's seein' might be with him for one birthday, but she'll never see two," Minda would say through her coarse smoker's rasp.
Other than that, the special table, set in the corner of Ira's kitchen, usually went empty. When a famous director like Heurick Roberts would ask Ivy, the hostess, to give him that table, she'd grin, showing her gold tooth, and say, "If I was to sit you in there with Fontanot he'd skin ya and clean ya and slather yo' ribs wit' sauce."
But Minas and Branwyn didn't know anything about the kitchen table and its special status. As a matter of fact, Branwyn thought that it was probably the worst seat in the house, being in the noisy kitchen and all, but she was willing to sit there because of that note of deep need in Minas's voice when he declared his hunger.
Minas asked for ribs, but Fontanot told him that if he was hungry he wanted the restaurant's special smoked sausages.
"Sausages stick to your ribs, boy," the big chef declared. "An' what will you have, Miss Beerman?"
"I don't eat much meat," she admitted with a slight bow of her head.
Minas thought that she was such a kind woman that she was afraid that her appetite would somehow bruise Fontanot's feelings.
"I got catfish come up ev'ry day from Lake Charles, Louisiana," Fontanot said. "They's a farm down there where they introduce wild fish every six weeks. You know, the big catfish farms got they fish so inbred that you might as well call'em sole."
This made Branwyn laugh.
Minas looked at the young, beautiful woman and wondered where she could have possibly come from. He was about to ask her, when Fontanot put a big oval plate of steaming sausages in front of him. One bite and Minas couldn't stop eating. The sauce was extremely spicy-hot, and so the doctor ate plenty of bread and downed glass after glass of ice water through the meal. But he didn't turn away the second plate when Fontanot placed it in front of him. Something about Branwyn's company and the kitchen and loud, loud Ira Fontanot made the doctor ravenous.
Branwyn picked at her catfish, which was very good, and watched the heart surgeon eat. She imagined that he probably hadn't had a good meal since the day his wife died.
Rich white doctor or no, she thought, it's an unlucky star that shone down on this man's backyard.
"I'm not usually such a pig, Miss Beerman," Minas said when he noticed her smiling at him.
"Appetite ain't nuthin' to be shamed of, Doctor," she said. "I wish that I could see my son eat like you."
"You should see my boy, Miss Beerman," Minas replied. "He sucks down formula by the quart. When he cries it's almost as loud as Mr. Fontanot here."
"Maybe he'll be a singer," Ira Fontanot said. "That's what I always wanted to be. But my voice was too strong, and they made me lip-synch in the church choir."
"That's awful," Branwyn said. "A boy or a girl should always be let to sing. When you gonna sing but when you're a child?"
"And who has more reason?" Minas added.
The three were silent a moment, appreciating how much in line their thinking was.
"More sausages, Minas?" Fontanot asked.
"I wouldn't be able to get in behind the wheel if I had them, Ira."
"How's your fish?" the big cook asked Branwyn.
"The best I've ever eaten," she said. "But don't tell my mama I said that."
BACK IN THE CAR, Minas related a long and convoluted joke about a poor woman who fooled a banker into being the shill for a hoax she was pulling on a fancy-pants lawyer.
The story took so long to tell that he had driven to her apartment building and parked in front of the door again before it was through.
Branwyn liked a good story, and she was happy at the end when the trick made her laugh and laugh.
"That's really beautiful," Minas Nolan said.
This caught the young mother up short. She had never in her wildest dreams imagined that she would be sitting in a car in the middle of the night with a rich white doctor calling her beautiful. White people were fine by her, but she never responded to any flirtation that she got from white men. She wasn't interested in them. She liked men like Elton, with his jet-black skin and deep laugh.
But Minas Nolan wasn't flirting. He really thought that she was beautiful, and he was honestly happy to be sitting there next to her.
"I should be going," she said. "It's very late."
"Thank you for keeping me company, Miss Beerman," Minas said.
They shook hands. Branwyn thought that she had had kisses less passionate than the way that surgeon held her fingers.
THE NEXT EVENING, Minas was waiting outside the ICU at eleven.
"I don't expect you to have dinner with me or to do anything except to accept a ride home, Miss Beerman," he said quickly, as if to keep her from protesting.
"You don't have to do that, Doctor," she said.
She had been thinking about Minas throughout the day-whenever she wasn't thinking about her son. Before their night at the Rib Joint, Branwyn would spend her days thinking about what it would be like if Elton came back and Tommy got better and they all moved to a house out toward the desert where they could have a backyard with a garden and a swing.
But that day, she hadn't thought of Elton at all-not once.
This wasn't a pleasant realization. If just one impossible night with a man who couldn't ever really be a friend made her forget the father of her child, then what would two nights bring? She might forget about Tommy next.
Dr. Nolan could see the rejection building in Branwyn's face, and before it could come out, he said, "Last night was the first time I got to sleep before sunrise. I had a good time just driving you home. It was something I could do. You know what I mean?"
She did know. It was just as if he knew how she understood things. His few words spoke a whole volume to her understanding of the world and loneliness. She couldn't refuse him the release of that drive. If she went home on the bus now, she would never get to sleep because she'd be up thinking of that poor man lying awake, thinking about his dead wife.
"I can't go to dinner though," she said as if in the middle of a much larger conversation.
Dr. Nolan drove Branwyn straight home. They talked about flowers that night. She explained to him how she thought about arranging different kinds of blossoms and leaves. He listened very closely and asked astute questions.
The next night he told her about the first time he cut into a living human body.
"I was so scared that I threw up afterward," he admitted. "I decided that I wasn't meant to be a surgeon."
Branwyn grinned at that.
"What are you laughing about?" the doctor asked.
"Because I was afraid?"
"Because you seem like you're not afraid of anything," she said.
"I'm scared plenty."
"Maybe you think so," Branwyn replied. "But people really afraid hardly ever know it."
"What does that mean?"
"Well ... the way I see it, a man who's afraid stays away from the things he fears. A man afraid of cutting into another to save his life would never put himself in the position to do that. He'd become an artist or anything else and then talk about surgery like he was some kinda expert. Fear makes men bluster. They do that so you can't tell how they feel, and after a while, neither can they."
The next night they were both quiet on the drive. The only words the doctor spoke were "thank you" when Branwyn got out to go to her door.
She liked it that Minas stayed in front of her apartment until she was well into the building.
MINAS NOLAN WORKED nearly every day after his wife died. And almost every night he stayed late and drove Branwyn Beerman to her door. After many days had passed, he made an appointment to talk to Dr. Mason Settler about Thomas Beerman's condition.
"There's nothing more I can do, Minas," Dr. Settler, head of the pediatric section of the ICU, said. "I'm surprised that the boy has lived so long. You know, his immune system is off, and I don't like the way he's breathing."
"You can't just let him die without trying something, Doctor," Minas said.
"What?" the elder Dr. Settler asked.
TWO WEEKS LATER, when Minas and Branwyn pulled up in front of her building, she hesitated before opening the car door.
"Yes, Miss Beerman?"
She took a deep breath and then said, "I have something I want to ask you."
"What's that?" he said in a whisper.
"Do you ever plan to kiss me?"
Dr. Minas Nolan had never in his life been without words. And even then he thought he had an answer to Branwyn's question. But when he opened his mouth to speak, nothing came out.
"Never mind," Branwyn said, and she pulled the handle on the door.
Minas reached out for her arm.
"No," he said.
"I never, I never thought that you wanted me to ... and I was afraid that you'd stop coming with me if I ..."
Branwyn turned toward the doctor and held out her arms. He rushed into the embrace, and they both sighed. They hugged without kissing for the longest time. It seemed that with each movement of their shoulders they got closer and closer, until one of them would groan in satisfaction and chills would jump off their skin.
"Let's go back to your place," Branwyn said finally.
That's when he first kissed her.
He turned the ignition and slipped the car into gear.
She touched the side of his neck with two fingers and said, "You drive me crazy."
THEY NEVER WENT to sleep that night. The first rays of the sun found them nestled together, thinking very close to the same thoughts.
"I'm worried about Thomas," Minas said after a very long, satisfying silence.
"What do you mean?" Branwyn asked, rousing from her lassitude. She had just been thinking that she had enough time to go see Thomas before she had to be at work.
"Dr. Settler doesn't know what he's doing for the boy. He just keeps him in that bubble, waiting for him to die."
"Yes. He has no positive prognosis. I think you need to try something else."
"You need to take him out of that place and hold him and love him. Maybe he'll live."
"Maybe?" Branwyn asked, knowing that this man cared more for her than the whole of Helmutt-Briggs Hospital and every other doctor she had ever known.
Excerpted from Fortunate Son by Walter Mosley Copyright ©2006 by Walter Mosley. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Walter Mosley is the author of the acclaimed Easy Rawlins series of mysteries and numerous other works of fiction and nonfiction. He lives in New York.
- New York, New York
- Date of Birth:
- January 12, 1952
- Place of Birth:
- Los Angeles, California
- B.A., Johnson State College
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I am on my third read of this book and each time I am brought to tears. I am a great fan of mr. Mosley and have nothing but praise for his stories and implacable, precise prose ( I read a review here that assults Mosley for his use of...( "to simple...." sentences). Not since Hemingway ( and perhaps Richard Brautigan ) has a writer succeded in cleaving the ' wheat from the chaf' leaving us with the bare bones of emotion exposed. ( mixed metaphor...ooops, sorry Walter. Again Mosley uses a relatively simple story as a canvas for much, much larger and important isssues. That this book is considered "young adult" is both a slam and a revelation. I hope every ' young person' is guided to this book and i hope every serious reader finds it. Captivating, emotional and entertaing, I hope it one day recieves the kind of adulation it deserves. Please, keep yourself safe and well Mr. Mosley...you are agift to humanity and I expect nothing but greatness for your work. A True ManOf Letters..... thank you.
In a West Los Angeles hospital, the wife of white heart surgeon Minas Nolan dies while giving birth to their son Eric. Also in the hospital at that time is one week old African-American Thomas Beerman, who has been born prematurely with a hole in his lung and not expected to live long especially outside a bubble. His single mother flower-shop worker Branwyn meets Minas in the hospital the cardiologist persuades her to come with her son to live in his home with his baby along with their Vietnamese nanny Ahn.---- Six years later, Branwyn suddenly dies. Instead of Tommy staying with the man who raised him with love and nurturing, his biological father Elton Trueblood abruptly claims him as his. Tommy grows up on the streets under the violent tutelage of his abusive father though he ¿talks¿ to his late mother when he needs solace Eric enjoys an upper middle class childhood though he is only sixteen when he sires a child. Eric and Tommy miss one another as they were siblings from birth until Elton entered the scene, but each has traveled a different path towards adulthood.----- This is Mosley at his best, telling an easy tale that seems so simple yet somehow is extremely deep as he makes the case that nurturing is more critical to making the adult than naturing. The ¿siblings¿ make the tale as they grow up in their early years as brothers regardless of the colors of their skins until they are suddenly separated and travel differing paths. Stereotyped as the golden boy and the ghetto boy, only adds to the allegorical depth of a great insightful character study of what makes the man---- Harriet Klausner
This is the 4th book that I've read by Mosley, my least favorite! The implied supernatural powers of the two main characters "eric & thomas" was difficult to accept--couldn't connect to either. Eric was like some savv type "rainman" & "thomas" was a higher functioning Forrest Gump.
This being my second Walter Mosely young adult novel, after reading the fantastic novel 47, I really enjoyed this one as well. While it was a different read the boldness of his writing makes it perfect for someone who likes a deep read. By the end of the book I was completely satisfied and took something very valuable from it.
Have you ever read a book in which a well developed and lovable main character dies within the first 50 pages? Would you believe that Mosely not only does this but does it with such skill that this character knits all other characters and a thrilling plot together through the last sentence of the book? Fortunate Son is impossible to describe. It is unipue in plot development, characterization, and theme. It is popping with suspence, filled with passionate characters, and impossible to predict the direction of. You will not be able to put it down and I guarantee that you will be very sad when you finish the last vivid page and have to.
A family that is not traditional, doses of dysfunction, racism, privilege and a story line that kept me interested from the beginning to the end. A little predictable, great character development and well worth the read.
The characters were sad, yet compelling. The scenes in the story were a little disturbing, but overall the ending was good.
This book reflects so much about our society, racism and the gap between the have and the have nots. You see one born with a silver spoon in his mouth and one who can't catch a break and you're inspired by the latter and his faith in life. I thought the ending wasn't satifying and left you wondering if his misfortune would continue or if things would finally go his way. But, I recommend this book just as someone did to me!
This is my first WM novel and i enjoyed it from beginning to end... I found myself unable to put the book down cause there was alot going on with Thomas and I felt sorry for him as if he were a real life character... The ending was okay but the book is general was good and i recommend it as a reader choice...
Two boys, so different in origin, together by fate, separated by law, growing up in different worlds, co-existing in the same city, finding their way through tangled lives, this is a page turner not for the plot but for the characters. I was afraid to finish this book because of my fear for what the ending could be. No, I won't give it away. This was a journey well taken. Other characters are loved for their cleverness, their antics, their actions. Here, Eric and Thomas are loved for themselves. I deeply cared for them, rejoicing in their victories, suffering in their defeats. The journey was at times exhilarating, at times painful, at times spiritual, and always memorable. Walter Mosley has written a book I won't soon forget, one of my best reads in years.
The book was an excellent audio selection. I couldn't turn it off. I was happy, angry, laughing and crying all at the same time.
I loved this book. I found myself wanting to mother Thomas, as my heart went out to this character immediately. I was at times so fearful of what would happen next, I found myself holding my breath! This is also the first review I have ever written, because I wanted so strongly to encourage readers to avoid missing this one. Great writing and a 'must read', as is so often said.
I have read most of Mr. Mosley's novels, but this was the first one that made me cry. This book is as emotionally provoking as his Easy Rawlins Mysteries are exciting and daring. The hard luck story that he tells is one reminiscent of Ellison¿s Invisible Man. Walter Mosley is truly one of American¿s greatest writers.
This is the first book I've read by Walter Mosely, but it certainly won't be my last. The story is a page-turner from beginning to end, the characters are well defined and the story awakens every emotion. I read this book in one day and thoroughly enjoyed it -- I guarantee you will too.
I'm in the 11th grade and had to read the book for a class project. It book it self was well written and a real page turner, but In the ended the story took a terrible turn for the worst and left me to be completely unsatisifed.