The perfect read for fans of The White Lotus or Succession
“As a novelist, Tarkington is the real deal. I can’t wait to see this story reach a wide audience.” —Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife
When Charlie Boykin was young, he thought his life with his single mother on the working-class side of Nashville was perfectly fine. But when his mother arranges for him to be admitted as a scholarship student to an elite private school, he is suddenly introduced to what the world can feel like to someone cushioned by money. That world, he discovers, is an almost irresistible place where one can bend—and break—rules and still end up untarnished. As he gets drawn into a friendship with a charismatic upperclassman, Archer Creigh, and an affluent family that treats him like an adopted son, Charlie quickly adapts to life in the upper echelons of Nashville society. Under their charming and alcohol-soaked spell, how can he not relax and enjoy it all—the lack of anxiety over money, the easy summers spent poolside at perfectly appointed mansions, the lavish parties, the freedom to make mistakes knowing that everything can be glossed over or fixed?
But over time, Charlie is increasingly pulled into covering for Archer’s constant deceits and his casual bigotry. At what point will the attraction of wealth and prestige wear off enough for Charlie to take a stand—and will he?
For readers of Wiley Cash, Ann Patchett, and Pat Conroy, The Fortunate Ones is an immersive, elegantly written story that conveys both the seductiveness of this world and the corruption of the people who see their ascent to the top as their birthright.
Ed Tarkington’s debut novel ONLY LOVE CAN BREAK YOUR HEART (Algonquin, 2016) was a ABA Indies Introduce selection (top 10 debuts of the publishing season), an Indie Next pick, a Book of the Month Club Main Selection, and a Southern Independent Booksellers Association bestseller. His second novel, THE FORTUNATE ONES (Algonquin, 2021), also a SIBA bestseller, was recently named a finalist for the Southern Book Prize. A regular contributor to Chapter16.org, his articles, essays, and stories have appeared in a variety of publications including the Nashville Scene, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Knoxville News-Sentinel, and Lit Hub. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
I thoroughly enjoyed Tarkington’s Only Love Can Break Your Heart, so I thought I’d love this one, but I didn’t. I’m clearly an outlier here as evidenced by the number of high ratings this book has garnered on Goodreads. No, it’s not “a fresh and sure-footed take on The Great Gatsby “ as the description reads . Full disclosure: The Great Gatsby is my favorite novel and I always resent any comparison. I felt at times Tarkington tried too hard to write a similar story. I clearly came to this with a built in bias, so please read the other reviews.
Aside from that bias, I felt as if I’ve read this book before, but that’s not possible. It was just published. Yet, it felt familiar. Charlie, a poor boy makes it into the circle of the rich with a scholarship to a private school, a seemingly warm welcome into the clique, even a home there and a place for his single mother. Half way through, he discovers, as does the reader that things are not as he believed and the bubble bursts at least for him. He leaves for Mexico to pursue his dream of being an artist, and I was heartened that Charlie was able to escape the grips of this crowd. But he returns years later when his mother becomes ill and he is once again in the grips of the people he left. I was disappointed that he gave in so easily, but this book is filled with flawed characters.
There’s a lot to chew on here - politics, the have and the have nots, alcoholism, depression, friendship and love. There’s also redemption, but it felt too late. The damage had already been done. In spite of my disappointment, I have to give it 3 stars since I always cared about Charlie and wanted to know how he got to the place in his life at the beginning of the novel when he recounts his past.
I received a copy of this book from Algonquin through Edelweiss.
I picked this book up to read the first few pages because I wasn't into my current read. What began as a few pages, turned into the prologue, then the first couple chapters and when I looked up 40ish minutes later, I was on page 60. I couldn't get enough of this story. I read the whole book in two days and it was a marvelous story. This was on its way to being a 5 star read and while the writing was superb, I think there was a missed opportunity. (I will explain that in a moment.)
Charlie Boykin grew up in pretty meager beginnings. He never met his father, and his mother ran away from home for getting pregnant before she was married. She moved into an apartment with her cousin and raised Charlie with the help of neighbors. He went to a mostly Black school and was picked on, but found protection in Terrence. Charlie had a good life and then one day, the course of everything he had ever known changed with his acceptance into one of the most prestigious schools in the state. It is the relationships he forms here that underscore the theme of this book.
So before I get into what I want to say regarding my "criticism", I want to make it known that I loved this book. I really, really did. I was absolutely riveted and couldn't wait to get back to this story every time I had to set it down. If you love coming of age stories, there is no doubt that you should read this. I also think this would also make a fantastic book club book because there is a lot of discussion worthy topics. As Charlie got older, I grew increasingly frustrated with him and the last third of the book is where I wanted more. In my opinion, the author missed an opportunity with Charlie's silence in standing by almost everything his best friend, Archer did. While I don't disagree that the "fortunate ones" in life suffer, I don't know what other term to use but the book being a little 'tone deaf'? I feel like that sounds unnecessarily harsh because I did really love this book, but with all the suffering of minority communities (which has more of a spotlight this year I was less receptive to a story about the plight of rich, white people. I'm struggling with how to explain it, but I wanted Charlie to dig in a little harder and maybe I'm projecting on to him what I hope I would have done in his place? Maybe Charlie wasn't that person after all. But I felt his conscience was and I wanted that awareness spoken out loud and I wanted Terrance more a part of the story than he was.
I think many will enjoy (as I surely did), but I would be interested to see if anyone who reads this book (and then my review) share the same feelings. Were you left wanting more?
Thank you to Algonquin Books and Ed Tarkington for the gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.
”And what we students of history always learn is that the human being is a very complicated contraption and that they are not good or bad but are good and bad and the good comes out of the bad and the bad out of the good, and the devil take the hindmost.” -- Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men
This story begins with two men pulling up in front of a house, the third time in a month they were sent out on an errand to deliver unwanted news. By the time they stopped in front of this house, several neighbors had seen them drive by, and the chain of phone calls had begun, and casseroles were busy being prepared, along with the right words of comfort. The mother knew what they were coming to tell her as soon as she saw them pull up in front of their house.
Still, this isn’t a book about war, but 1969 is the year, and the Vietnam war factors into this story’s beginnings, and of Charlie Boykin’s beginnings, as well. It’s the story of life, and first love, or loves, and a fatherless boy who grows up in a relatively impoverished neighborhood and is a target for beatings by other students. Soon after, through the courtesy of others, he is attending Yeatman, a prestigious school where he meets students with more affluent parents, bigger houses and a sense of privilege.
’If not for that day, I would never have left East Nashville for Belle Meade, nor would I have understood how much the conditions of life in one world depend on the whims of those who live in another.’
Arch Creigh is the young man who becomes his designated “big brother,” tasked with showing Charlie around at Yeatman, and befriends him, offering him advice, and making a path for him to ‘fit in’ among his friends. As years go by, they end up taking different paths in life for a time, one becomes an artist, the other has aspirations of life in politics. Whether or not it is his intent to help others or a hunger to help himself remains to be seen.
Almost five years ago I read Tarkington’s Only Love Can Break Your Heart which really impressed me. His stories lie somewhere between darker southern grit-lit and a light read, but there is a building sense of intensity that permeates these pages. In both stories, the twists and turns of Tarkington’s writing skills managed to take me by surprise, while at the same time his stories seem so grounded in the eternal truth of Robert Penn Warren’s words.
Pub Date: 5 Jan 2021
Many thanks for the ARC provided by Algonquin Books / Workman Press
Ed Tarkington's new book, The Fortunate Ones, was a great book to start off 2021 with!
Charlie was growing up in a poor neighborhood in East Nashville with his single mother, and didn’t really think about what more life could offer. But when his mother gets him a scholarship to The Yeatman School, an exclusive private school, his life changes tremendously. Suddenly he realizes the ease by which people of privilege move through the world, seemingly impervious to problems and rules and consequences.
He quickly is taken under the wing of Archer Creigh, and the Haltoms, an affluent family. His relationship with Arch is part friendship and part hero worship, and he becomes a surrogate son to the Haltoms—a relationship complicated when they try to bring him and his mother even further into their circle.
But as Charlie is about to step into a life he could have only dreamed of, he realizes how tired he already is of the secrets and subterfuge that characterize the world of privilege. Yet too often, Arch’s magnetism pulls him back, so ultimately he has to decide whether he wants to live a life he is now expected to or one he wants to, and what implications that may have on his relationships with family and friends.
The Fortunate Ones was a great coming-of-age novel, one that almost felt like a book written years ago when stories were simpler, but with a modern touch. It’s a story of friendship and love, loyalty and family, privilege and responsibility. No one is 100 percent likable but how many people really are?
I’m a big fan of Tarkington; his first book, Only Love Can Break Your Heart was excellent, too. This story had me hooked from start to finish.
I was pleased to be part of the blog tour for this book. Algonquin Books provided me with a complimentary advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making it available!
But memory doesn’t let go of us. We can no more choose to put away the past than we can cease to breathe and go on living. And yet we try.
Impressive, sprawling and yet intimate, this story of class differences, loyalty, corruption and Southern-ness completely captivated. While the book spans decades, it never becomes mired in minutiae allowing it to flow seamlessly.
This was an engrossing coming-of-age character study as our narrator straddles the world he was born into and the one he is eventually introduced to and falls in love with. The writing is crisp and the setting is Nashville, old and new, and it’s almost another character as it grows along with our main character.
There’s a sense of tragedy that permeates the story along with the blessing and curse of the Southern way. I was left with a haunting melancholy as I turned the last page, the characters and story ending too soon for me to let go.
When asked to sum up the book in one sentence, the author said ‘it’s a cross between The Great Gatsby, Brideshead Revisited and All The King’s Men. While I can see vestiges of at least two, and I’m prickly when it comes to any insinuation of my beloved Gatsby, I found this original in its approach and remarkable in its telling.
Charlie Botkin is having a tough time adjusting to ninth grade at an elite prep school. His transition is awkward because he is on scholarship and from a working-class family. All that changes when Archer is assigned as his big brother. Charlie is drawn to Archer’s charm and kindness and also gets access to his privileged background. Charlie finds himself spending time in the upscale town of Belle Meade, Tennessee where he indulges in private parties, country clubs, and luxury vacations.
Charlie’s mother is still prominent in his life. She ran away to Nashville when she was a pregnant teenager. She found work as a cocktail waitress and was the catalyst for him to apply for a scholarship to a private school. Later in life, Charlie learns of the tragic death of Archer who was running for the US Senate. This event uncovers secrets from the past including the details of his scholarship.
The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington is about lifelong friendships. The book explores how people change and relationships evolve. I enjoyed this book and all the wonderful characters.
A Southern exposé in a certain way, with grace and pain wrapped between frankly beautiful written pages. I was not expecting to love this story of a white man in the South, but there are some kernels here and no one was more surprised to find them than me.
Characters: ★★★★ 1/2 Writing: ★★★★★ Pacing: ★★★★★
For those who know me here on Goodreads and in the book community, you might be thinking this really isn't my type of read. (You're totally right) A book written by a white dude, about a white dude in Nashville, Tennessee, with lots of white privilege and classism?? Amy, come on.
Well I had to eat my hat with this one, folks, because this was stunning.
Beautifully written, poignantly described, and filled with an unbelievably delicate balance of self-awareness and reflection on the hypocrisy and decay of the Southern white elite, The Fortunate Ones is a read that will no doubt be a focus of discussion in 2021.
Charlie Boykin grows up in a poorer part of Nashville with his single mother, Bonnie. Bonnie got pregnant at 15 and was thrown out of her rich family's house and told never to return. Charlie never knows anything different—his Aunt Sunny is a bar singer, his mother is a cocktail waitress at a bar nicknamed The Divorcee, and his best friend, Terrence, is a Black kid with a lot of heart who looks out for Charlie.
Then Charlie's life dramatically changes in high school. His mother has managed to snag him a need-based scholarship to Yeatman, an all-boy prep school known for housing Nashville's elite children with ties to old money and the Old South. Charlie has no idea what he's in for.
In a move that should feel derivative of The Great Gatsby but manages to stand alone and supersede it, Charlie's life as the "outsider" passes as he reflects on, admires, craves, and worms his way into the glamorous and decaying life of Nashville's rich. His tie to his close friend and occasional secret lover, Archer Creigh, becomes one of unbalanced love and manipulation as Charlie falls deeper and deeper into a world that he's aware is wrong, racist, and fueled by the pain of the lower classes—and yet the lure of the glitz is too much for him to ignore.
Spanning decades and locations, The Fortunate Ones feels like an epic wrapped in a mere 300 pages. Charlie is—surprisingly, for me as a woman from a lower middle class background—a likeable narrator to follow. He's both aware of his privilege and yet aware enough of his ignorance to own up to his blindness in certain arenas.
The people of color in this novel are marginalized and relegated to stereotypical Southern roles, and we as readers are uncomfortably aware of that boundary line even as young Charlie and old Charlie miss most of it. The women of this novel are trapped in the gossamer cage of the trophy, the accessory, the beautiful—and while Charlie catches some of that and misses most of it, Tarkington's skill as an author highlights it for us despite his own narrator's ignorance. I found that extremely well done.
Another element to this story was its fringe revelations in the handling of its gay and lesbian characters. In a society where sexuality is strictly forced into a heteronormative binary, Tarkington's way of highlighting that rot and hypocrisy by having Archer's sexuality bleed through the edges of the page was fascinating, along with Charlie's interactions with a mentor figure who exists as a lesbian amongst this world of "good old boys." I really can't talk about this element without spoilers, but wanted to highlight that it's here for those who would automatically dismiss the story as not including that element. (I totally did that, honestly, so I'm raising my own hand.)
What a beautiful, lingering piece of fiction.
Thank you to Algonquin Books for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
This is one of those books that I thought after reading the prologue that it was going to be another not-so-subtle political diatribe and not my type of book - I was wrong.
This book echoes the classic platitude of be careful what you wish for, as money does not buy happiness. In the 1960s, a teenage mom living in the South becomes pregnant by a boy drafted to Vietnam and never to be seen again. Her father is unrelenting about her raising a child out of wedlock in his house, so she chooses to become a runaway. Years later after a rough go of it, her son, Charlie, is accepted into an elite private school in Nashville, thanks to wealthy donors. Charlie's assigned "big brother," Arch, is the BMOC, a football star, and opens all the doors for a whole new world for Charlie and his mother. As Charlie and his mother immerse themselves in their new privileged life though, the flaws of their new friends come to light, and Charlie struggles as his perception is overly skewed by loyalty. As more corruption surrounding Archer, his family, and circle of friends, come to light though, he begins to question his own morals. Charlie becomes so disillusioned that he eventually makes a series of life-changing decisions with monumental effects.
This book is really a deep soul-search into the meaning in life. Oddly, I came to love some of the "villains" of the story, and rather dislike the "good guy." It has a bittersweet ending and really is a cautionary tale for anyone enamored with "living the high life." This was my first Ed Tarkington reading experience, and I enjoyed it much more than I anticipated, as it truly is a remarkably touching and realistic picture of the angst that goes hand in hand with suddenly being pulled from poor to privileged. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.
I really enjoyed the first two thirds of the story. Charlie is a 15 y.o., when Mr. Haltom takes him from poverty to subsidizing his schooling at an exclusive Nashville private institution where the children of the movers and shakers go. He is placed in the car of Arch, another of Haltom's proteges and thus he is mentored on the proper dress, protocols and introductions to the right people. He is befriended by Haltom's twins, a son, who hides in every substance he can locate and Vanessa, a beautiful, studious and soft spoken daughter. She and Arch are an item and he becomes the 3rd wheel. Lusting after Vanessa but only her confidant. As he is to Arch as well. Living in both of their shadows is acceptable until he discovers that his mother, who was offered a job as an assistant to Mrs. Haltom, is taking care of Mr. Haltom too. When he learns that Haltom intends to marry his pregnant mom, Charlie abandons everyone.
Later, when things turn south in his family does he return. It has been 1o years and Arch is running for local office. Charlie comes to realize just how manipulative Arch is and the lies, he tells without any sense of wrong doing. As Charlie sees Arch and Vanessa for their true selves, he is left feeling empty and betrayed. He makes some choices looking for another path but even that isn't particularly satisfying. I found the last third kind of meandered and I didn't find the ending to offer much closure or satisfaction in their choices. I had hoped for more. It wasn't provided so I left thinking, huh.
The publisher's blurb on the back of the hardcover jacket tells us this is like Great Gatsby. I really feel that oversold the actual delivery here. Yes, there is a love triangle similar to that in Gatsby but the narrator is mostly an observer. This story tried to do more and accomplished less. Gatsby is a classic and this book is not a substitute for reading the classic. Tarkington does a fairly good job at character development but offers no symbolism which Fitzgerald delivered in spades! The story was well structured in the beginning with a prep school saga (none in Gatsby of course) but once school ended the story's plot seemed less captivating. I enjoyed it but find the Gatsby comparison to be a weak analogy. Read it, just don't replace this for Fitzgerald's stellar accomplishment.
I really liked this book. It is beautifully written and the portrayal of the complex characters is spot on. The book has been compared to The Great Gatsby, and I can see it a little, with a poor boy finding himself living among the privileged set and aspiring to belong. For me, Arch Creigh is more like Hubbell Gardner from The Way We Were: a man for whom things came easily. He enjoys and exploits the admiration of Charlie Boykin, a boy from “the other side of the tracks” who has gotten a scholarship to the prestigious Yeatman private school in Nashville. As Charlie is drawn into Arch’s inner circle, he discovers that the trappings of wealth and privilege can mask a lot of sins. Charlie turns a blind eye to many of the flaws that he sees in order to belong, until he can no longer do so. After he establishes a new life for himself away from Nashville, a visit from someone from his past draws him back into the illustrious circles of wealth and power in Nashville, where he finally has to come to terms with himself and his perceptions of these people he has long admired.
Most of the characters are fairly complex, my favorite being Charlie. I never felt like I got a handle on Vanessa, or what she wanted out of life. Arch is very complex, but in an almost superficial way, if that makes sense. He always maintains a facade of respectability, and yet he hides deep secrets. He claims to love Charlie like a brother, yet he keeps him at arms length for most of the story.
There is an undercurrent of racism, anti-Semitism and misogyny in the story and in Nashville. There is a pervasive feeling that the white men must remain in charge. There are themes of loyalty: either to family or friends; the nature of love; weighing personal integrity against getting ahead and ambition; and living your own life vs. meeting expectations of others. By the end, you are wondering who The Fortunate Ones really are.
I liked The Fortunate Ones, but it wasn’t as powerful or unique as I had hoped. It is, however, beautifully written and the author completely humanizes his characters, never making them wholly good or bad. While I never found myself disengaged from the narrative, I did seem to enjoy the first half more than the second half.
This is a story that shows how wealth better conceals certain behaviors. The author does well in depicting corruption as universal, not something reserved solely for the rich, but demonstrates how the cloak of money has tremendous power.
It is a thought provoking story, quietly told through the eyes of Charlie Boykin, a boy who came from humble beginnings and, due to a scholarship, found himself amongst the elite. He is well-accepted, which offers ease and comfort, essentially making it easy to turn a blind eye to the most unsavory behaviors he witnesses. As time wears on, however, he gains the maturity and insight to look at things through a different lens.
I really expected this to be a bit more jaw-dropping, but nothing anyone did came as a tremendous surprise. Still, I do appreciate how well-developed these characters were. If nothing more, The Fortunate Ones serves as a firm reminder that no one is ever just one thing and nothing is black and white.
Ed Tarkington’s prose and in depth storytelling are enough to sell me on anything else he writes. I am very interested in checking out his debut novel Only Love Can Break Your Heart. He seems to possess a profound understanding of the cost of being human and I greatly value such intuitiveness in a story. In a world that often forgets there is more than what we see on the surface, we need more writers like this.
This opens up with the end- a conservative Republican senator has ended his life, and a soldier begins to cry when he hears the news.
The story flashes back to the soldier’s school days at an elite boys school in Nashville. Charlie Boykin is from the “wrong side of the tracks” and manages to get into the school on scholarship. He’s quickly drawn into an intense friendship with Archer Creigh- a charismatic upperclassman who’s all too happy to show him the ropes. He quickly gets enmeshed in the lives of his classmates when a scandal threatens to upend it all. The novel fast forwards to 10 years later, where we pick up with the characters and see how their lives turned out.
This was surprisingly emotional! I loved Charlie and could really relate to his desire to go along with the crowd to fit in. I haven’t cared about a character this much since Cyril Avery from The Hearts Invisible Furies. This is deeper than “rich people behaving badly”, there’s commentary on class, wealth, privilege, toxic masculinity, politics, and corruption. I would have loved to see more depth from the female characters, but they weren’t the focus in this one. All told, I really loved this lush and layered coming-of-age story.
[TW: suicide, loss of pregnancy, death of a parent]
Who, you may ask, are The Fortunate Ones? In Mr. Tarkington's world, they're wealthy white Southern masters of the universe. in the real world, they're anyone who skips this yawn of a novel which revives (exhumes?) the ancient trope of a poor boy entering a world of privilege and learning (hope you're sitting down) that money can't buy happiness. The author does bring something to this shopworn tale that Alan Hollinghurst, Evelyn Waugh, F. Scott Fitzgerald and several hundred other authors whom I'm too lazy to Google lacked - blandness. His narrator, a walking dishrag named Charlie Boykin (cute, huh?), has so little personality that when he does initiate action, you wonder if you skipped the chapter where he was abducted by aliens and implanted with a remote control. I suppose I should like this novel because Mr. Tarkington seems to hale from the same side of the political spectrum as me, and he takes a couple of cheap shots at Fred Thompson and Bill Frist. I've never had more sympathy for either man.
This was an exceptional story that really grabbed me from the beginning. The writing is superb, and a great character driven story I really enjoyed. The story is centered on Charlie Boykin, a son of a pregnant runaway, who was given an opportunity of a lifetime by being accepted into one of Nashvilles’s elite and most prestigious schools. In this story, Ed Tarkington writes about a great coming-of-age story that highlights wealth and privilege, friendships and loyalties, morality and corruption, in a façade we are all drawn in to belong and feel accepted.
This was an irresistible read that drew me in to the complex cost of becoming one of the rich and powerful. Tarkington is truly a masterful storyteller with a keen eye on characters and conflicted emotions. Well done!!
I was provided a copy by Algonquin Books/ Workman Press. My reviews are my own.
4.5/5 - A classic American tragedy that focuses on a boy who comes from nothing, is given opportunities to grow up among the privileged, only to find out years later that living an entitled life doesn't guarantee happiness. Alot to take in and reflect upon. A great choice for book clubs.
Charlie Boykin lives on the wrong side of the tracks or, at least, in the wrong part of Nashville. His mother fled her affluent life at 15 because she was pregnant with Charlie and defiantly unwilling to part with him. For over a decade she lived a hand-to-mouth life, raising Charlie, working as a waitress, living with her cousin, an aspiring singer who never moves beyond the local bar scene.
Then Charlie lucks out. His mother dresses them both in their Sunday best and takes her son to an interview at the exclusive private boys' school, Yeatman. Much to his surprise, he is admitted to the school on full scholarship. Better yet, he is paired with Archer Creigh, a cultured young man with the pedigree of Nashville royalty. Arch is kind and benevolent, and takes Charlie under his wing. He also introduces him into the Haltom family, a nouveau riche addition to the Belle Meade community. Jim Haltom is his benefactor, for reasons that Charlie does not interrogate too closely, nor discover until many years later. But Charlie thinks mostly and with great pleasure of the reprieve he has been given. With great relief he falls under the spell of all this genteel wealth. Of course, all of it's too good to be true (it wouldn't be much of a novel if it were otherwise, would it?) Soon Charlie begins to see the ugly underside of all this plenty and gets caught up in the emotional maelstrom of involvement with this crowd.
I suppose I am damning this book with faint praise when I say it is perfectly competently written, but that seems to me the most accurate description of what this book is: a competent story, efficiently if ploddingly written, with only a few implausibilities (the Army? Really?). But in the final analysis it really doesn't seem to have much to say. We come to care only mildly for these folks and what they are going through; without emotional investment in their plight, though the book never really flags, it never excites, either, never challenges or thrills us.
I have also tired of the trials and tribulations of rich, white people. Yes, there are nods here and there in this book to the plight of those who aren't either of these things, but they are just that: nods rather than an actual exploration of what it means to be black or poor or (God help you) both in the Nashville of the late 20th and early 21st century. Perhaps I am just unfeeling (rich people, after all, grieve and fail and die, just like the rest of us), but probably not. Particularly in this moment of our country's history, it seems singularly tone deaf to publish a book about white privilege and expect us to sympathize with the privileged white people. Don't get me wrong, that's not the only reason I couldn't really relate to this book; it's just not that richly plotted and the conflicts raised are fairly pedestrian. But it certainly doesn't help that we have to climb that racial and class hill in order to care.
This book caught my eye when I read it’s a take on The Great Gatsby (is also blurbed by Kevin Wilson.) The Fortunate Ones is a southern coming-of-age novel that explores friendship, family, love and loyalty. This story dives deep into how having wealth and privilege not only distorts morality, but gave the privileged elite belief there are no consequences due to their birthright. Politics and scandal also play important roles in the storyline. This is incredibly thought-provoking, and an all around interesting story. Would be perfect for book clubs.
This book ticked all the boxes for me. Some reviewers say it's reminiscent of The Great Gatsby - and I can see that in terms of theme - but I was reminded more of the late Pat Conroy. This was such a well-written coming-of-age story... definitely one to sink into the pages and lose yourself!
This was a compelling story about wealth, power, privilege, and entitlement; and the story of a young man not born to those things who is pulled into that world. I have spent a lot of the last 4 years questioning what has happened to people’s moral compass. This book explores blurry lines and how they are crossed, each time a little more easily than the last, until it’s forgotten that a line was even there. Thank you to Goodreads Giveaways and Algonquin Books for a copy of the ARC.
4.5 What a great study of the illusions of entitlement. A young boy is given a great or so he thinks, opportunity to become one of the fortunate ones. Prep school and free ride to elite college.. But as he matures, he becomes aware of what privilege is and and are the sacrifices worth the payoff? This will be a great one for book clubs.
Words rarely escape me, but I know I cannot adequately describe the beauty, the depth, the meaning, and profundity of Ed Tarkington's "The Fortunate Ones." I have read many thousands of books since I learned to read more than 60 years ago. This one will now go on my top ten list. There is just so much to it, so much to ponder, consider, absorb, and take to heart, so much for which to weep, and to feel joy for having been gifted these words and pages recently penned by a literary marvel. The main character, Charlie, was born to a fifteen year old single mother in 1969, (when this was still considered shameful), but most of the story is told in retrospect when Charlie is in his thirties, in the early 2000's. It is not until the end that we learn to whom Charlie is telling his tale. It's a retrospective of America during the 1970's and 80's, when people were still not quite comfortable with their identities and when racism was veiled behind southern smiles and debauchery. Charlie suddenly finds himself a scholarship student at a boy's prep school in a wealthy section of Nashville, Tn. and is taken under the wing of Arch, a boy of much privilege and charm. Through Arch, Charlie meets a family who will treat him as a son, and offer him the world, showing him all that a life of privilege entails. It iss also the story of Charlie's lifelong longing for one of the children of that family, the beautiful Vanessa. As the years go by and untruths are uncovered, one of which will send Charlie running away, to south of the border for a decade, we are treated to the unfolding of a new world, a new millennium, but not such a new south. Tarkington, through Charlie, conveys what it means to embrace your roots, while moving forward into a new way of life. No one is all good, nor all evil. Characters are misread and misunderstood. Years pass, and Arch will enter politics, asking more, at times of his friends and family than he has the right to do, but he is so charismatic, and so good at hiding truths from the public, and his loved ones, (which has to be a painful way to live), that he is able to find successes that might, ultimately, be his downfall. Every character is so well fleshed out that a thesis could be written about each one. Descriptions of both the elite and seedier sides of Nashville are so well painted that we can see them in our mind's eye. There are losses so huge that it's hard to imagine how the characters continue with their lives, but such is humanity. We are resilient. Even though the story is set mostly two decades ago, it is a referendum on today, on the hypocrisy of the evangelicals and those who want to squelch the rights of all human beings in favor of the white upper class. The novel has been compared to "The Great Gatsby," but I think it is a far better book. One of the books on my top 10 list is Wallace Stegnor's "Crossing to Safety." While "The Fortunate Ones" is not about two male professors and their lives, I found similarities in tone and feeling, though "Crossing..." was written nearly 35 years ago, and is about a much earlier time in this country. Still, I felt the same way while reading that one. I could not put either book down, nor could I stop thinking about either of them when done. I think both men and women who came of age in the 70's and 80's will remember many of the events that are noted in this book, and will realize that we have come a long way, and yet, not far enough at all. Those of us, myself included, who were prep school educated, may especially relate to the truly intimate friendships that form, building lifelong friendships from those earliest days when we were facing adulthood, career choices, and how to navigate the world outside our idllic, small educational settings. Brilliant book! I read most of it in one sitting! Even though it is a book for deep thought, it is also a quick read, and not a single paragraph was a chore through which a reader must navigate. I wanted to hang on every word! 5 stars will never be sufficient to show I felt about this book!
I adored Tarkington’s debut novel, Only Love Can Break Your Heart (my review), so I was excited to read his take on “wealthy people behaving badly” and “rich, unsupervised teens” (thank you, Bad on Paper Podcast, for this perfect phrase!). The premise of this story reminded me of the Gossip Girl TV series…only set in Nashville. And, Charlie Boykin is reminiscent of Dan Humphrey and his “outsider observing wealthy people behaving badly” status. The Fortunate Ones is a character-driven novel that’s easy to fly through and a cautionary tale about privilege run amok. It follows the characters from their private school adolescence into adulthood and delves into the dirtiness of politics. Tarkington is an astute observer of human nature and social behavior, which is apparent in his spot-on commentary on race, class, and privilege. Tarkington’s voice was what really made me love Only Love Can Break Your Heart and it’s back in full force in The Fortunate Ones.
I really liked this coming-of-age story set mostly in Nashville about Charlie, a poor, fatherless boy living on the wrong side of town with his pretty mother and wannabe singer aunt. Charlie's prospects change when his mother gets a job being the "helper" of a rich woman. The job comes with definite perks: Charlie and his mother now live in the pool house of the wealthy family and Charlie attends a prestigious private school on scholarship. Charlie also befriends Vanessa and Jamie, the twins who live in the big house.
Charlie's most significant relationship, though, is with Archer, who is tapped to guide Charlie through the intricacies of school life. Archer, though, teaches Charlie much more than the school fight song, introducing him to live among the rich and privileged.
This is an engrossing read that examines boyhood friendship, first love, the choice between following what's expected and following one's own dreams, truths and secrets, rich and poor, white and black. Excellent story and highly recommended.
For my thoughts on the audiobook, see AudioFile Magazine.
The Fortunate Ones is a coming of age novel that follows Charlie Boykin from his entry into a private high school through adulthood. Honestly, I wasn't sure how much I would be interested in reading about privileged white boys in Nashville, but I was immediately intrigued by the prologue. When Charlie is unexpectedly accepted on scholarship to an elite private school, it triggers a confluence of events that change the trajectory of his life. The Fortunate Ones is a solid 4⭐ read. I did find the ending a bit rushed and left wanting a tiny bit more. Tarkington's writing flows smoothly and easily brings the characters to life.
The Fortunate Ones is the story of average Charlie, and what happens when is he suddenly thrust into high society Nashville and is taken underneath the wing of Arch, a wealthy upperclassmen. Obviously, the shine doesn’t last long. It’s the story of pride, family, and trying to rise above one’s station.
I’m guessing a lot of people will love this, but for me it was too polite at best a look at privilege. I didn’t realize this going in, but it’s a loose Gatsby retelling and still misses that mark pretty widely. There are also some major triggers in this book that would not be apparent from the synopsis.
If I had just read the blurb alone, I would never have picked this book. Books about rich people or rich people behaving poorly are not really my thing but this was Annie’s (owner of The Bookshelf) Shelf Subscription pick for December. This book was way more than rich people behaving poorly and it’s one I’d like to discuss with others because there is quite a bit to unpack here. Would be good for a book club discussion, as well. I genuinely cared for most of the characters (especially Charlie) and what happened to them along the way.
Very readable, & I went through it quickly (the prologue was a great hook), but I felt like I never really got Charlie. There was this distance between him and the reader that didn’t work for me. The writing of this character, and really of all the characters in this book, made it hard for me to feel anything about this.
The Fortunate Ones deals with the concept that those within a certain socio-economic strata have rights and privileges that others do not - especially in the political world. And boy have we been privy to that in our nation in the past 6 years... it's terrifying what certain individuals have gotten away with.
In the case of Charlie Boykin, he sees first-hand the influence that power and money have. Having literally seen both sides of the same coin, he has some difficult choices to make when his friend enters politics.
It was a fascinating story with moral dilemmas that really make the reader consider the magnitude of privilege in our country.
A young boy gets a chance to leave his impoverished life and go to a prep school. He leaves his friend behind and loves his new life with the wealthy and well connected. But are they the fortunate ones?? They too have problems but use their wealth to cover them up. He runs away several times to avoid conflicts. So the point is that life is horrible no matter if you’re wealthy or poor? His mother was a pregnant teenager who chose to keep him even though her family abandoned her. A wealthy girl chooses to have an abortion instead of derailing her life and spends the rest of her life in depression. Nice contrast between the two sides, showing that both choices are hard and have repercussions for decades.