Title: Golden Child
Author: Claire Adam
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Free ARC from SJP for Hogarth
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/2
Note: As stated under the Source (above), I received this book for free from SJP for Hogarth via NetGalley. I pride myself on writing fair and honest reviews.
“A deeply affecting debut novel set in Trinidad, following the lives of a family as they navigate impossible choices about scarcity, loyalty, and love
Rural Trinidad: a brick house on stilts surrounded by bush; a family, quietly surviving, just trying to live a decent life. Clyde, the father, works long, exhausting shifts at the petroleum plant in southern Trinidad; Joy, his wife, looks after the home. Their two sons, thirteen years old, wake early every morning to travel to the capital, Port of Spain, for school. They are twins but nothing alike: Paul has always been considered odd, while Peter is widely believed to be a genius, destined for greatness.
When Paul goes walking in the bush one afternoon and doesn’t come home, Clyde is forced to go looking for him, this child who has caused him endless trouble already, and who he has never really understood. And as the hours turn to days, and Clyde begins to understand Paul’s fate, his world shatters–leaving him faced with a decision no parent should ever have to make.
Like the Trinidadian landscape itself, Golden Child is both beautiful and unsettling; a resoundingly human story of aspiration, betrayal, and love.”
I like lists. I especially like book lists. And this book? This book was the one book on all the lists. Naturally, that meant I’d either love it or hate it, because Murphy’s law says so. Surprisingly, I loved the book despite hating at least one of the characters and being grossly disappointed by two others at the end. And I hate to spoil things for you, but this book doesn’t have a happy ending. Though it starts out slow, it is an emotional roller coaster, full of family disappointment and betrayals of the worst kind.
Set in Trinidad, the story begins from the father’s perspective. From the beginning, I disliked him, to the point that I heavily considered setting the book aside. My opinion of him worsened over time. Fortunately, other perspectives are offered throughout, enriching the story, revealing the natures of the characters involved in the tragedy that takes place later in the book.
As the story progressed, my connection to the boys deepened, but especially Paul, whose apparent disability, though never labeled as autism, reminded me so much of my son. To avoid spoilers, I cannot elaborate too much, but all I can say is, as a parent, and in particular, a parent of multiples (the boys in this book are twins) where one in the mix has unique challenges, this book had me sitting on the razor-sharp edge of rage and despair most of the time. The family of these boys, immediate and extended…I just can’t. And the ending. Oh my gods. Ripped my heart out and shredded it to nothing. As a parent, I just can’t imagine making the choices this family makes. Not a one of them.
Long story short: a strange, melancholy heartbreaker that is beautifully written, devastating ending.