Laila Lalami’s Secret Son is destined to become a book group mainstay.
It’s elegantly written, complex, told from multiple perspectives and captures the political corruption and the gulf between the haves and have-nots in contemporary Morocco.
Youssef El Mekki has lived with his mother in a one-room house in the slums of Casablanca all of his life. He never knew his father, a man who he was told died accidentally before he could know him. But the year that he enters college, he discovers that his mother has not been honest about who his father was, and later, even who she was. These revelations prove bolstering and shattering to Youssef as the narrative progresses.
Youssef discovers that his father is actually a wealthy businessman when he comes across his photograph in a newspaper. As he forges a relationship with him, Youssef must choose between the father he never knew and the mother who has nurtured him. As more secrets unravel, Youssef finds himself adrift and vulnerable.
In other words, plenty happens in Lalami’s Secret Son. Youssef’s rise and fall, the choices of his mother and father and the disparity in the vibrant city of Casablanca provide just the right combination of themes with a cast of characters that Lalami creates with nuance and care.
Not only would this be a wonderful book group selection, Secret Son would also make great summer reading. But I guarantee you’ll want to talk with someone about it afterwards!