The Fortunate Ones: Book summary and reviews of The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington

The Fortunate Ones

by Ed Tarkington

The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington X
The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington
Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

For fans of Ann Patchett's Commonwealth and Kevin Wilson's Nothing to See Here, The Fortunate Ones is an engrossing story of class, love, and loyalty.

When Charlie Boykin was young, he'd thought his life with his single mother was really just fine. But when his mother's connections get Charlie into boarding school and give them access to the upper echelons of Nashville society, Charlie falls under the spell of all that a life among the wealthy can mean. Increasingly attached to another boy, Arch Creigh, Charlie learns how morality has little to do with life in Belle Meade. On into college and after, Charlie aids Arch in his pursuit of a Senate seat, only to be pulled into a growing web of deceit. The novel examines the questions: Why do the poor love the rich? Why do we envy and worship a class of people that so often exhibits the worst excesses and the lowest morals?

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!


Media Reviews

"Tarkington weaves in some scandal—an affair, an abortion, and enough secrets to keep readers guessing. But he's not just prompting the next page turn. The novel is concerned with what lies beneath both the best intentions and worst impulses...An impressive literary balancing act that entertains as it enriches." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"The Fortunate Ones feels like a fresh and remarkably sure-footed take on The Great Gatsby, examining the complex costs of attempting to transcend or exchange your given class for a more gilded one. Tarkington's understanding of the human heart and mind is deep, wise, and uncommonly empathetic. As a novelist, he is the real deal. I can't wait to see this story reach a wide audience, and to see what he does next." - Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife

"[S]pirited...Tarkington's strong story of loyalty and the corruption of privilege transcends the familiar set-up." - Publishers Weekly

"Tarkington's writing ... calls to mind a young Pat Conroy." - Garden & Gun

"There's a sharpness to Ed Tarkington's view of the world, an exacting truthfulness of how things work, but he marries it to such an open-hearted and resonant humanity in his writing that it's hard not to place him easily in the company of Pat Conroy and Alice McDermott. In The Fortunate Ones, Tarkington examines privilege and friendship with that same incredible perspective, and he helps us see the difficulties of trying to hold onto yourself even as you want so badly to be transformed. An amazing, thought-provoking novel by one of our most generous writers." - Kevin Wilson, author of Nothing to See Here

"Ed Tarkington perfectly captures the heady, conflicted emotions that come with proximity to privilege — both the irresistible longing and the heartbreaking disillusionment. I'm recommending The Fortunate Ones to every book club I know." - Mary Laura Philpott, author of I Miss You When I Blink

This information about The Fortunate Ones was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Taylor Betty

Captivating Story
I was completely captivated by this book. The prologue grabbed me when Charlie Boykin, an Army soldier, is stunned to learn of the suicide of a prominent Southern senator, a senator he knew well. I immediately wondered what the connection was between the two men.

We tend to be envious of “the fortunate ones”, the ones “born with a silver spoon in their mouths”. This is a strong character study told from the perspective of an outsider who has been granted access to the elitist insiders. Thus, we find that their lives are not as perfect as they appear. Tarkington writes of privilege and ambition, and of how that privilege corrupts.

Charlie, raised by his single mother, finds his life changed when he receives a scholarship to an elite private school. His assigned “big brother” Arch Creigh introduces him to a life where lack of money is not an everyday struggle. The relationships he forms with these families lie at the heart of this book. While at first, Charlie is loving his new life, he eventually is forced to recognize the corruption he sees in the lives of those who consider themselves the elite of society.

The superb writing flowed beautifully with no hiccups to disrupt the stream of the story. Tarkington really brought his characters to life. I had genuine feelings for them as they struggled with their vulnerabilities and frailties. I always love a story that forces one to question their own integrity. Will Charlie take the easy way out? Or will he take a stand against the wrongs he witnesses?

Thank you to the publisher Algonquin Books for an advance copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.

Elizabeth S. (East Hartford, CT)

Captivating Retelling of Old Tale
Until I read "The Fortunate Ones" I doubted that any more could be written about a working class boy coming in contact with one "to the manor born." Nor did I think I could be swayed by the irony of the title. I was wrong. From the start of the novel through to its finish I was captured by the first person narration of Charlie Boykin and by his encounters over time with Archie Creigh. It didn't matter that I could tell where the book was headed; this novel depends on character much more than plot. By the time I was done Charlie and Archie came to occupy the same spot in my imagination reserved until now by Gatsby and Nick. They live there still.

Susanna K. (Willow Street, PA)

Fortunate? Dictionary definition: "Bringing some good not foreseen as certain" or "Receiving unexpected good". Charlie Boyton was happy living with his single mother in a low income neighborhood. Surrounded by many caretakers and friends money didn't matter to him. But things changed when he was exposed to another different way of life- wealth! At first he couldn't believe his good "fortune" living in a beautiful estate, experiencing all the frills money could buy. He had it all or so he thought. Continuing his journey throughout the years, you will experience all of his emotions- blissful, saddened, disillusionment, confusion. Even running away didn't give contentment. Fortunate???

Anna R. (Oak Ridge, TN)

Great read
This was such a good story. I could "see" the characters. The contrast between the lives of Arch and Charlie was well done. I understood Charlie's mother wanting a better life for her son. The twists in the story kept me reading. I couldn't put this book down and will recommend it to my book group.

Pamela C. (Boxborough, MA)

A real page turner!
This book was hard to put down! Many interesting characters and a great peek into the secret lives of rich and powerful people. Charlie Boykin comes to join that world due to his mothers connections and his life changes totally. He becomes involved with Arch Creigh, a charismatic, wealthy and ambitious young man. Charlie learns how to operate in that well to do lifestyle and no matter how hard he tries to let go, he never falls far from Archie's spell.This book is a coming of age story and mystery set in the south. You know a book is good when you don't want it to end!

Nancy D. (Raleigh, NC)

True to Oneself
I don't often read books where the protagonist is a male. I sometimes find them a little difficult. This certainly was not the case with The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington. I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Charlie Boykin and his journey through the lives of the "elite" of Nashville. He sacrifices a lot to keep himself in a place where he believed the "grass is always greener". While he invests much into the friendships, it appears he get very little back in return. The relationship between Charlie and his mother is a sad one. She was the true architect of his acceptance into Yeatman and how it impacts both their life. I didn't care for Arch, Jamie, Vanessa or some of the other characters who only seemed to care about themselves, their place in the world, their ambitions and their wants. I believe they all use Charlie in one way of another, but, truly, Charlie not only let them, but seemed to enjoy his new life. However, throughout it all Charlie seems to grow and truly began to understand himself and the life that he was thrown into. A very timely book which deals with present day issue and their impact on everyone's life. But throughout it all, it is Charlie's struggle to be the man he was meant to be that keeps one captivated by this book.

...24 more reader reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Ed Tarkington

Ed Tarkington's debut novel Only Love Can Break Your Heart was an ABA Indies Introduce selection, an Indie Next pick, a Book of the Month Club Main Selection, and a Southern Independent Booksellers Association bestseller. A regular contributor to, 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.

More Author Information

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more literary fiction...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.75 per month.

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: If I Survive You
    If I Survive You
    by Jonathan Escoffery
    In If I Survive You, author Jonathan Escoffery portrays a family falling apart with grace. Main ...
  • Book Jacket: Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    by Sidik Fofana
    'Everybody got a story, everybody got a tale / Question is: Is it despair or prevail?' ...
  • Book Jacket: Fire Season
    Fire Season
    by Leyna Krow
    Fire Season is a thoroughly enjoyable novel that touches upon multiple genres and themes. It ...
  • Book Jacket: The Story of Russia
    The Story of Russia
    by Orlando Figes
    In The Story of Russia, British historian and writer Orlando Figes shares panoramic and ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Ways We Hide
by Kristina McMorris
From the bestselling author of Sold On A Monday, a sweeping tale of an illusionist recruited by British intelligence in World War II.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Natural History
    by Andrea Barrett

    A masterful new collection of interconnected stories, from the renowned National Book Award–winning author.

Book Club Giveaway!
Win A Minor Chorus

A Minor Chorus

A debut novel from a rising literary star that brings the modern queer and Indigenous experience into sharp relief.



Solve this clue:

Y Can't G H A

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.