Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Review: Everybody's Son

It was the hottest week anyone could remember in years. Anton's mother locked him in their inner-city apartment while she went to get a quick hit. But she didn't come back. Days later, Anton breaks a window and the police find him bloody, hungry, and overheated. When his mother is finally found, she is sent to prison and her son becomes a part of the foster care system. Anton's foster parents are David and Delores Coleman. They carry the tremendous loss of their own son and hope that Anton can bring some joy to their home again. With time, the Colemans come to love Anton and he cares very much for his foster parents, even as he asks about being reunited with his mother. David's love will drive him to use his power and influence as a judge to make a terrible decision that will have repercussions for everyone in his family.

Thrity Umrigar is not an author who shies away from tough questions. In Everybody's Son, she looks at the immoral decisions that people will make for the people they love. Anton is a boy who goes through difficult circumstances, but he is also a boy who is deeply loved by his mother and by his foster parents. It would be easy for the author to portray the drug-addicted mother as the villain and the kind Colemans as the heroes. It would also be easy to rail against the rich white people who took a black child away from the mother who was doing the best she could. But Thrity Umrigar does neither of these things. Instead, she has created a nuanced story in which characters do bad things for good reasons and good things for the wrong reasons.

The ending of this book was wrapped up a little neatly for me and I wished that we hadn't jumped from a lot of action to a lot of self-reflection in the final hundred pages. But Thrity Umrigar is a careful and compelling writer and this book will give you a lot to think about when it comes to power, privilege, and the bond of family.

Everybody's Son
By Thrity Umrigar
Harper June 2017
352 pages
From the library


  1. This one has been on my radar for a couple months. It sounds like a compelling story. I hope I can find the time to squeeze it in this year.

  2. I hope I can find this book. The subject of ethics is a tough one. You have to be faced with a situation to know how moral and ethical one is.

    1. Exactly! It's so tough to know how you would react until you are in a crisis.