The Secret Son

Updated at 1/30/2016 06:10:54 - Details

TrishNYC Youssef El Mekki is a son of the slums where he grows up with his widowed mother and hopes for a better future. When we first meet him, he is about to graduate high school and hopefully head for university. Both he and his mother look to his higher education as a bridge to a better life and possibly out of the ghetto. But by chance, Youssef discovers that his father who he was brought up to believe died in a tragic accident is in fact alive and quite a rich and influential member of Moroccan society. He is whisked into a world of power, privilege and money and its truly like a whirlwind romance for a boy who finds his fairly tale of leaving the ghetto becoming a reality.

As Yossef gets acquainted with his father, he begins to change both physically and mentally. He begins to scorn his mother who he believes is trying to deny him access to greatness and embraces the limited admittance he is granted into his father's life. He eventually abandons his university studies, believing that his father will assure his future and along with that go his old friends from the neighborhood. But as his mother warned,all is not as it may seem and Youssef is again relegated to the ghetto. The resulting sadness and feelings of rejection that follow set into motion a tragic set of events that will taint and scar almost everyone involved.

The author's quiet comments on Morocco and the country that it is becoming are evident. There is a sense of nostalgia that is palpable all through the book, be it a return to the ghetto for a former resident or the return of a favored daughter to the Morocco she used to know. The sights, smells and sound of Morocco are a constant and help draw in the reader. There are so many themes apparent in this book, from the lies that we tell the ones we love to protect them and ourselves from certain harsh realities, to the lies we tell to cover our past mistakes. There is the theme of the presence of social classes and its pervading evidence in all facets of Moroccan life. The resulting effect of this being young men who lose hope as they find that because they did not win the birth lottery that allowed them to be born rich, they will remain low and subject to the will of the rich and powerful. And most dangerously, there is the theme of what happens when hope is lost and messengers of death promise an outlet. A very interesting book that I enjoyed reading. 3.5 out of 5.

pjpick After reading some of the other reviews I wish I could be as eloquent as they have been but alas, I am not a writer--just a simple reader. Nevertheless, I continue. I was surprised at how taken I was with this novel. Would I have picked it up off a bookseller's shelf? I'm not sure. However, I certainly appreciated Lalami's writing style and found her stark descriptions of modern Morocco, it's culture, and its struggles quite captivating. Gently, Lalami pulled me into Youseff's life and I found myself quite taken with this young man. I was also taken with his mother and the sacrifices she had made in order to avoid shaming her family. This is a hard book to put down and it is certainly an appropriate novel for this decade. I give it only 4.5 stars simply because I did not care for the ending but, to be fair, I'm not sure if an ending I desired would have been best for the author's message.

Liz_C_Indy In Secret Son, Laila Lalami paints a vivid picture of modern Morocco and its politics, while telling the story of Youssef El-Mekki, whose entire life is circumscribed by the class structure of his country. Youssef's journey from the slums of Casablanca, to college, to a luxury apartment paid for by his previously believed dead father, and then back to the slums plays out against the rise of a radical Islamic group, and Lalami's story makes it easy to see just how a group like this could appeal to poor disillusioned youth like Youssef and his friends, which, coupled with the complex motivations of all the principal characters, leads to the book's climax and disturbing, yet appropriate, conclusion.


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The Secret Son

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