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
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  • Publishes in USA 
    Jan 5, 2021
    320 pages
    Genre: Novels

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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?

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"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

The information about The Fortunate Ones shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Laura C. (Woodworth, LA)

The perils of privilege
The Fortunate Ones could be summed up with several platitudes. "Be careful what you wish for. All that glitters is not gold. The grass is always greener on the other side." But Ed Tarkington's tale of the haves and the have nots of Nashville is a deep dive into the sobering reality of wanting and trying to be what one is not. Teenager Charlie Boykin walks that tightrope in an elite private school where his admission is thanks to the generosity of wealthy donors. Charlie's assigned big brother, Arch Creigh, football standout, opens all the doors into Charlie's new world. But even as Charlie learns the ropes of his new privileged life, the secrets and flaws of his new friends emerge, including of his mentor, Arch. Disillusioned and torn between going along and distancing himself from the pull of what he knows is wrong, Charlie struggles with the moral choices he faces. Tarkington, with Charlie as narrator, paints a remarkably touching and realistic picture of the angst experienced by someone suddenly pulled from poor to privileged, while trying not to lose oneself in the process. Tarkington writes a cautionary and thoughtful tale for anyone who has wondered what it would be like to live the high life. The Fortunate Ones has huge book club potential.

Cynthia A. (Grand Rapids, MI)

All that glitters is not gold
All that glitters is not gold.

The grass is NOT greener on the other side of the fence.

These are just two of the sayings that came to mind while reading this book.
I was hooked from the beginning. This is such a good story with many interesting characters and lots of twists and turns. The characters are from different societal groups, income levels, education, talents and walks of life. And yet deep down they are all the same, with hopes, dreams, plans, insecurities and confidence.

I wish there was a sequel because I want to know what comes next

Henry W. (Lake Barrington, IL)

Under the rocks
An interesting read. What is it like to be "adopted" by a family of significantly greater resources. What is it like to be on the fringes of your new societal circle. How many of us have tried to fill in gaps in our personal histories. I believe we all have shared journeys similar to those set forth by the author. I was a little surprised by some of the issues resolved in the end that I had not even identified. An interesting read worth your time as at stirs you to find out more about your history.

Carrie M. (Rahway, NJ)

The Fortunate Ones
In Ed Tarkington's The Fortunate Ones, take a journey through the formative years and beyond from the perspective of Archer Creigh, from a privileged family, and Charlie Boykin, from an underprivileged one, and discover how their lives become intertwined and depend on each other. In this engaging thoughtful book, the reader explores the dynamics and interconnections between the wealthy and underprivileged families, who they depend upon, and for what and how they handle their differences and similarities.

Throughout the novel many questions are raised for the reader to ponder. One question not answered: yes, the reader the sees the fortunate ones, but what about the unfortunate ones who do not receive the advantages that Charlie and his mother Bonnie received? The author does provide a full array of life decisions made by the two main characters, including Charlie deciding he must escape from this life to head to Mexico and be with other friends and pursue his art career, but devotion to his mother causes him to come home and return to his former life and support Archer and his aspirations to seek political office because of the lifeline he gave to Charlie.

The Fortunate Ones will provide the reader much thought with a wide array of characters and how they interact with one another, and how their thought processes and consequent emotional reactions add to interactions with the other characters, all of whom have contributions and indiscretions but support how the plot evolves.

Despite not looking enough at the unfortunate ones, The Fortunate Ones is a recommended and thoughtful read, because the author's focus in The Fortunate Ones was to look those who were given the opportunity to be fortunate.

Reid B. (Seattle, WA)

Rich white people in love
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.

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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 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.

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