Blanche’s Book Club: ‘The Fortunate Ones’.

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It was a rainy, foggy weekend in Austin, which sounds bad, but it’s actually the perfect weather for staying inside and mostly in bed. I needed a few lazy days.

I watched both parts of “Tiger” — the HBO Tiger Woods documentary (very good if you haven’t watched it yet) — “The King of Staten Island” (not so good), and a lot of old episodes of “Southern Charm” in prep for this week’s reunion show.

I also read a good bit! The latest read by Blanche’s Book Club is “The Fortunate Ones” by Ed Tarkington. This was actually my January book pick from the operators of a monthly subscription I bought for myself last fall. You share your reading preferences (what you like, what you don’t like), and they send you one hand-selected pick each month — it’s a total surprise.

The Fortunate Ones” is the story of Charlie, the son of a single mom, who grows up on the rougher, more diverse side of Nashville. So, he’s a little shocked when his mom takes him for an interview at the fancy, all-white, boy’s school on the other side of town.

He gets in and is paired up with Arch — the Head Master’s son — and he’s introduced to a world of old money and extreme privilege. As it always happens though, the shine fades, and Charlie starts to see the darker side of his new friends.

This book has been compared to “The Great Gatsby” —although this one is set in the last ’80s and spans 20 years — and I realized I’ve never read it, which makes me feel really odd… shouldn’t I have read that in school?? Anyway, it’s now on my TBR.

But, this book has ALL kinds of drama. It touches a lot on class, of course, race, and white privilege. But there’s also a lot of discussion around abortion and being a single, pregnant woman. Some of it is southern culture, while some of it is the wealthy v. everyone else.

If you’re triggered by ill parents — I am — there is a touch of that in this book. It’s definitely not a part of the main plot, but it’s there for a few chapters, just FYI.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It’s incredibly well-written and I enjoyed how so much of the drama was intertwined. I felt it did a great job of representing the South. Having lived in Louisiana and Texas now for 17 years (!), I’ve seen much of what was depicted in this book.

I also really liked the characters. It was interesting to see this life through Charlie’s eyes. I think all of us, at some point, have experienced the shiny parts of wealth. Whether it’s going to a friends’ house or treating ourselves to something nice with unexpected income, and it’s easy to think the grass is greener.

This story is timeless, but it felt particularly fitting given that it arrived on my doorstep the afternoon of the insurrection.

I’d definitely recommend this book! If you’re interested at all in social class, race, and privilege. An excellent read.

What books have you been reading so far this year?

Book Club Questions for The Fortunate Ones

  1. What traits do you think Charlie was most attracted to in Arch, Jamie, and his new friends?
  2. Do you think Charlie’s schoolmates knew the “real reason” Charlie was admitted into the school?
  3. Is there another route you expected (or preferred) Charlie to take after graduation?
  4. Have you ever found yourself in a situation at all similar to Charlie, even if on a smaller scale? What about Arch’s point-of-view?
  5. Can you see this book as a movie? If so, who would play each part?

For more book recommendations, be sure to subscribe to the blog (look to the right) and follow me on Goodreads @thebitterlemon – where I share more of my book picks.

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