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Secret Son

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Youssef el-Mekki, a young man of nineteen, is living with his mother in the slums of Casablanca when he discovers that the father he believed to be dead is, in fact, alive and eager to befriend and support him. Leaving his mother behind, Youssef assumes a life he could only dream of: a famous and influential father, his own penthouse apartment, and all the luxuries associated with his new status. His future appears assured until an abrupt reversal of fortune sends him back to the streets and his childhood friends, where a fringe Islamic group, known simply as the Party, has set up its headquarters.

In the spirit of The Inheritance of Loss: A Novel and The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Laila Lalami's powerful first novel explores the struggle for identity, the need for family, and the desperation that overtakes ordinary lives in a country divided by class, politics, and religion.

Review:

"A nuanced depiction of the roots of Islamic terrorism, written by someone who intimately knows one of the stratified societies where it grows." Gaiutra Bahadur, New York Times

Review:

"Laila Lalami's tale of a young Moroccan man who must navigate between a bleak background and a bright possibility is magnificently told and wrenched my heart." Joe Sacco

Review:

"The culture and politics of contemporary Morocco are well displayed in this beautifully written tale, with the talented Lalami deftly portraying Youssef's struggles for identity, work, and family. A brilliant story of alienation and desperation that easily transports readers to hot, dusty Casablanca." Library Journal (starred review)

Review:

"In her debut novel, Lalami explores the religious and political underpinnings of social inequity in globalized Morocco. An absorbing tale." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"A story brimming with insight into the complexities of life in contemporary Morocco." Booklist

Review:

"Relying on her sharp eye for detail rather than authorial comment or character reflection, [Lalami] raises question after question — about privilege vs. poverty, Western commercialism vs. traditional ways, secularism vs. religion — without ever seeming to be doing more than telling a compelling story." Michael McGregor, The Oregonian

Review:

"A tale of contemporary Morocco straddling the personal and the political, told simply, beautifully, with heart and panache. Lalami has talent to burn." Gary Shteyngart

Synopsis:

In the spirit of "The Reluctant Fundamentalist," Lalami's powerful first novel explores the struggle for identity, the need for family, and the desperation that overtakes ordinary lives in a country divided by class, politics, and religion.

Synopsis:

Raised by his mother in a one-room house in the slums of Casablanca, Youssef El Mekki has always had big dreams of living another life in another world. Suddenly his dreams are within reach when he discovers that his father--whom he'd been led to believe was dead--is very much alive. A wealthy businessman, he seems eager to give his son a new start. Youssef leaves his mother behind to live a life of luxury, until a reversal of fortune sends him back to the streets and his childhood friends. Trapped once again by his class and painfully aware of the limitations of his prospects, he becomes easy prey for a fringe Islamic group.

In the spirit of The Inheritance of Loss and The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Laila Lalami's debut novel looks at the struggle for identity, the need for love and family, and the desperation that grips ordinary lives in a world divided by class, politics, and religion.

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About the Author

Laila Lalami was born and raised in Morocco. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a Fulbright fellowship and was short-listed for the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2006. She lives in Los Angeles.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Mary Akers, May 9, 2009 (view all comments by Mary Akers)
Youssef El-Mekki grew up in Casablanca, in the slums of Hay An Najat where houseflies "grazed on piles of trash, competing with cows and sheep for tea grounds, vegetable peels, and empty containers of yogurt." One young man by circumstance, another by birthright, at nineteen Youssef learns shocking details about his real father that thrust him into a world of sudden luxuries, luxuries that at once elevate his circumstances and separate him from the places and people he loves.

Amal Amrani, by contrast, grew up a daughter of privilege and means. When she moves to the States and defies her wealthy parents' wishes, she is cut off both emotionally and financially. Later, in a gesture of reconciliation and renewed support, her parents cross the ocean to witness her graduation. Amal holds the door open for them at the end of a visit, "forgetting that Moroccans do not open doors for departing guests for fear of giving the impression that the guests are unwelcome." It is a striking symbol of how much her new life has changed her.

Exhibiting two very different approaches to filial duty, Amal reluctantly returns to Casablanca to reestablish her position in the family, leaving her new love behind in the States; Youssef embraces his newfound father's world of wealth and status, leaving his mother behind in the slums. Repercussions from the secret that Amal and Youssef have both borne for years---each without knowing it---ultimately cause them to question the very foundations of duty, loyalty, and love. In the end, both must choose. Both must declare their allegiance. Unfortunately for Youssef, his choice (which is no choice at all) hastens his descent into a shadowy religious underworld where faith is a weapon and all believers must be tested.

At its heart, Secret Son is a gorgeously rendered and heartbreaking tale of longing and belonging, of finding---and also leaving behind---the people and places we call home.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781565124943
Publisher:
Algonquin Books
Subject:
General
Author:
Lalami, Laila
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Young men
Subject:
Morocco
Subject:
Casablanca (Morocco)
Subject:
Middle East
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Hardback
Publication Date:
20090421
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
291
Dimensions:
8.5 x 5.5 in

Related Subjects

Featured Titles » Literature
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Secret Son
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 291 pages Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill - English 9781565124943 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A nuanced depiction of the roots of Islamic terrorism, written by someone who intimately knows one of the stratified societies where it grows."
"Review" by , "Laila Lalami's tale of a young Moroccan man who must navigate between a bleak background and a bright possibility is magnificently told and wrenched my heart."
"Review" by , "The culture and politics of contemporary Morocco are well displayed in this beautifully written tale, with the talented Lalami deftly portraying Youssef's struggles for identity, work, and family. A brilliant story of alienation and desperation that easily transports readers to hot, dusty Casablanca."
"Review" by , "In her debut novel, Lalami explores the religious and political underpinnings of social inequity in globalized Morocco. An absorbing tale."
"Review" by , "A story brimming with insight into the complexities of life in contemporary Morocco."
"Review" by , "Relying on her sharp eye for detail rather than authorial comment or character reflection, [Lalami] raises question after question — about privilege vs. poverty, Western commercialism vs. traditional ways, secularism vs. religion — without ever seeming to be doing more than telling a compelling story."
"Review" by , "A tale of contemporary Morocco straddling the personal and the political, told simply, beautifully, with heart and panache. Lalami has talent to burn."
"Synopsis" by , In the spirit of "The Reluctant Fundamentalist," Lalami's powerful first novel explores the struggle for identity, the need for family, and the desperation that overtakes ordinary lives in a country divided by class, politics, and religion.
"Synopsis" by ,
Raised by his mother in a one-room house in the slums of Casablanca, Youssef El Mekki has always had big dreams of living another life in another world. Suddenly his dreams are within reach when he discovers that his father--whom he'd been led to believe was dead--is very much alive. A wealthy businessman, he seems eager to give his son a new start. Youssef leaves his mother behind to live a life of luxury, until a reversal of fortune sends him back to the streets and his childhood friends. Trapped once again by his class and painfully aware of the limitations of his prospects, he becomes easy prey for a fringe Islamic group.

In the spirit of The Inheritance of Loss and The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Laila Lalami's debut novel looks at the struggle for identity, the need for love and family, and the desperation that grips ordinary lives in a world divided by class, politics, and religion.

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