Everybody's Son: A Novel (Large Print / Paperback)

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Anton was only 9 years old in 1991 when his mother went in search of drugs, connected with her dealer, and spent the next 7 days in a drug induced haze while her son starved and sweltered.  It was a hot summer, the temperature was 95 degrees and the windows to the apartment were painted shut, beyond the ability of a thin 9 year old boy to open.  For his “safety” his mother had locked him into the apartment.  Food ran out on day 3, about the time the electricity was turned off for non-payment.  The telephone had been shut off earlier.  Anton drank tap water, trying to stave off the hunger and heat.  Finally, on day 7, weakened and worried about his mother, Anton threw a chair into the window and climbed out, cutting himself on a shard of glass.  A kindly police officer picked the kid up when he noticed him walking down the sidewalk trailing blood.   His “mom” was found just a few blocks away, higher than a kite. She didn’t mean to leave her son, just wanted a quick hit, but the dealer kept her high to work off her debt. Her first questions are about the son she did not intend to abandon in a hot building with no food.  Well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. If Anton hadn’t thrown that chair and had died in that apartment her intentions wouldn’t have done him the slightest bit of good.  Anton is desperate to be reunited with his mother; she is desperate to have her son back.  Odd how a beaten dog will go back to its owner, a woman to her abuser, and a child is eager to return to a parent who could prove deadly. 

However the law is involved now, so Anton is put in the foster system and Juanita, the mother, is sent to jail. Judge David Coleman is a good man, from a privileged background, the son of a US Senator.  His son died in a tragic accident, David would like to have a child in their large home again, help out a kid in dire circumstances.  His wife, Delores, is a great mother; they live in a safe neighborhood with excellent schools, sharing all of that seems right.  He is a little nervous when he is offered Anton, not sure he is capable or the right choice for a traumatized black child.  His worries soon turn to a deep love for this golden child, he is filled with protectiveness and caring that will carry him past boundaries in order to keep Anton.  The boundaries crossed will come home to roost when Anton discovers the truth as an adult. 

The scenes with Anton coming to grips with the actions of people he loved and trusted, and his moral deliberations about the path he must take for the future are wonderful written and deeply moving.  Anton is an absolutely splendid character! That said, I am in David’s corner.  No second chances with the life of a child; abandon a 9 year old in a sweltering apartment without food and the title of “mother” is permanently abdicated.  Read the story and see if you agree, Umrigar, I suspect disagrees.  Her earlier book, The Weight of Heaven, also explores the question of the rights of birth parents against the wealth of a more affluent couple offering a potentially better life at a far too high a cost.  Both are brilliant books, however, Everybody’s Son is different.  It also explores the possibility of redemption and the concept of family. This birth parent is not only poor financially; she took actions that endangered her child.  Poverty versus wealth is not the main issue, responsible, loving parent versus a woman who risked the child’s life for her drugs.  This is a perfect book club selection!  It asks disturbing questions about moral choices, ethnicity, and the use of power granted by wealth and privilege.  It certainly had me engrossed in the story!

— Deon Stonehouse

Anton was only 9 years old in 1991 when his mother went in search of drugs, connected with her dealer, and spent the next 7 days in a drug induced haze while her son starved and sweltered.  It was a hot summer, the temperature was 95 degrees and the windows to the apartment were painted shut, beyond the ability of a thin 9 year old boy to open.  For his “safety” his mother had locked him into the apartment.  Food ran out on day 3, about the time the electricity was turned off for non-payment.  The telephone had been shut off earlier.  Anton drank tap water, trying to stave off the hunger and heat.  Finally, on day 7, weakened and worried about his mother, Anton threw a chair into the window and climbed out, cutting himself on a shard of glass.  A kindly police officer picked the kid up when he noticed him walking down the sidewalk trailing blood.   His “mom” was found just a few blocks away, higher than a kite.

 

She didn’t mean to leave her son, just wanted a quick hit, but the dealer kept her high to work off her debt. Her first questions are about the son she did not intend to abandon in a hot building with no food.  Well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. If Anton hadn’t thrown that chair and had died in that apartment her intentions wouldn’t have done him the slightest bit of good.  Anton is desperate to be reunited with his mother; she is desperate to have her son back.  Odd how a beaten dog will go back to its owner, a woman to her abuser, and a child is eager to return to a parent who could prove deadly.  However the law is involved now, so Anton is put in the foster system and Juanita, the mother, is sent to jail.

 

Judge David Coleman is a good man, from a privileged background, the son of a US Senator.  David’s son died in a tragic accident, he would like to have a child in their large home again, help out a kid in dire circumstances.  His wife, Delores, is a great mother; they live in a safe neighborhood with excellent schools, sharing all of that seems right.  He is a little nervous when he is offered Anton, not sure he is capable or the right choice for a traumatized black child.  His worries soon turn to a deep love for this golden child, he is filled with protectiveness and caring that will carry him past boundaries in order to keep Anton.  The boundaries crossed will come home to roost when Anton discovers the truth as an adult.  The scenes with Anton coming to grips with the actions of people he loved and trusted, and his moral deliberations about the path he must take for the future are wonderful written and deeply moving. 

 

Anton is an absolutely splendid character! That said, I am in David’s corner.  No second chances with the life of a child; abandon a 9 year old in a sweltering apartment without food and the title of “mother” is permanently abdicated.  Read the story and see if you agree, Umrigar, I suspect disagrees.  Her earlier book, The Weight of Heaven, also explores the question of the rights of birth parents against the wealth of a more affluent couple offering a potentially better life at a far too high a cost.  Both are brilliant books, however, Everybody’s Son is different.  It also explores the possibility of redemption and the concept of family.  This is a perfect book club selection!  It asks disturbing questions about moral choices, ethnicity, and the use of power granted by wealth and privilege.

— Deon Stonehouse

Description


The bestselling, critically acclaimed author of The Space Between Us and The World We Found deftly explores issues of race, class, privilege, and power and asks us to consider uncomfortable moral questions in this probing, ambitious, emotionally wrenching novel of two families—one black, one white.

During a terrible heat wave in 1991—the worst in a decade—ten-year-old Anton has been locked in an apartment in the projects, alone, for seven days, without air conditioning or a fan. With no electricity, the refrigerator and lights do not work. Hot, hungry, and desperate, Anton shatters a window and climbs out. Cutting his leg on the broken glass, he is covered in blood when the police find him.

Juanita, his mother, is discovered in a crack house less than three blocks away, nearly unconscious and half-naked. When she comes to, she repeatedly asks for her baby boy. She never meant to leave Anton—she went out for a quick hit and was headed right back, until her drug dealer raped her and kept her high. Though the bond between mother and son is extremely strong, Anton is placed with child services while Juanita goes to jail.

The Harvard-educated son of a US senator, Judge David Coleman is a scion of northeastern white privilege. Desperate to have a child in the house again after the tragic death of his teenage son, David uses his power and connections to keep his new foster son, Anton, with him and his wife, Delores—actions that will have devastating consequences in the years to come.

Following in his adopted family’s footsteps, Anton, too, rises within the establishment. But when he discovers the truth about his life, his birth mother, and his adopted parents, this man of the law must come to terms with the moral complexities of crimes committed by the people he loves most.

About the Author


Thrity Umrigar is the author of seven novels Everybody’s Son, The Story Hour, The World We Found, The Weight of Heaven, The Space Between Us, If Today Be Sweet, and Bombay Time; a memoir, First Darling of the Morning; and a children’s picture book, When I Carried You in My Belly. A former journalist, she was awarded a Nieman Fellowship to Harvard and was a finalist for the PEN Beyond Margins Award. A professor of English at Case Western Reserve University, she lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

 

Praise For…


“[Umrigar’s] focus has always been on the Indian and Indian American experience, but here she crosses borders to examine tough and timely issues concerning a black family, a white family, and our children today.”
Library Journal

Everybody’s Son probes directly into the tender spots of race and privilege in America…With assured prose and deep insight into the human heart, Umrigar explores the moral gray zone of what parents, no matter their race, will do for love.”
— Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You

“Umrigar hits us in three places at once: the head, the heart... the gut. With clarity of vision, she takes on the story of a neglected black boy…[Anton] is a character for our times as we… try and build bridges across the racial and economic canyons that divide us.”
— David Abrams, author of Fobbit and Brave Deeds

“A potent examination of race and privilege.”
Booklist

“…[A] powerful exploration of the crucible of privilege and the raw, hard consequence of broken trust…[A] taut, exquisitely moving love story about desire... forgiveness, and the transcendent bond between a parent and child. Umrigar is a gifted storyteller, and her fiction has a revelatory force on the page.”
— Dawn Tripp, author of Georgia

“[Anton’s] personal journey is a moving one that many fiction readers can appreciate.”
Library Journal

“Through this disturbing yet evocative tale, Umrigar — best known for her books “The Space Between Us” and “The World We Found” — offers a troubling look at race and the conflicting desires of two families.”
— Washington Post

“Through strong characterizations and a compassionate, compelling narrative, Thrity Umrigar explores the assumptions and complexities of identity, race and class — and the meaning of family.”
— Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Be forewarned: this novel is not a beach read… It’s a book that will leave you unsettled and haunted.”
— W Magazine

“Everybody’s Son is an example of powerful and uncomplicated writing which pushes your borders and leaves you at the edge of a mountain top. The only option you have is to jump. And jump you will.”
— The Free Press Journal

“Heartbreaking… The complexity of ethical decisions emerges as the characters find themselves in situations where no choice seems faultless.”
— Christian Century

“Umrigar’s novel examines complex social issues with brutal honesty, but also creates accessible characters with relatable motives, reminding us of the deep-seated racism that exists even in the places we don’t think to look.”  
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Product Details
ISBN: 9780062442260
ISBN-10: 0062442260
Large Print: Yes
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publication Date: June 5th, 2018
Pages: 352
Language: English