Golden Child is a profound statement about family and community and the chain of events set in motion by our preferences and how we act on them. And gently and urgently, it asks over and over, how much does love cost? And what are you willing to sacrifice for it?
The story unfolds against the rich Caribbean backdrop of Trinidad and Tobago, where a family of modest means but rich potential invests their resources into their golden child(ren) – twin boys, Peter and Paul, one who is academically gifted while the other struggles to keep up. While there are several twists that a plot such as this one could take, the novel explores the mystery of a lost child, as well as takes on the particular beliefs that are held up in families that treats children differently based on the contributions they anticipate each one making to their shared future.
The writing is deliberate and yet subtle, the story beginning right away with a rich atmospheric setting and whispers of personification the moment we meet the characters. Our first introduction is to the dogs, lazy mutts that should be guard dogs but that spend their days sleeping and doing nothing to keep their owners safe. Next, we meet Clyde, the father who exchanges his time and mental resources in the chemical plant, the odors of his job strong enough to suffocate his other, more important responsibility of protecting his family. And while he has two sons, identical in age and appearance, when he arrives, his first call is not to summon his favorite but to relay tasks onto the one he would rather keep busy outside. Here, the narrative points out subliminally but also explicitly, not just Clyde’s acknowledgement that when he calls for one, the other responds, but that it disappoints him. And what of the mother, Joy – how does she contribute to the dysfunction? Is she a hapless homemaker, content to carry out her husband’s wishes or does she also have her own preferences and what will she do to further them? And how much does love cost?
The similarities versus difference in the treatment of twins is one that carries great potential in literature and here, we are reminded of the biblical Esau and Jacob, the favoritism showed by both their parents, each one choosing a child that they wanted to inherit the legacy. It also hearkens back to the tale of the prodigal sons – the lost brother and the joy that his return would mean for the father. In this fictional tale, the author invites the reader into the rural Caribbean setting, the humble house, the hardships of their life, so we can ponder what the real inheritance is and which child can truly lay claim to it.
As a West Indian myself, I greatly anticipated this new book, and with it, the addition of a new storytelling voice that would carry the drumbeats that I have grown up hearing in the distance, the similarities and differences from my own experiences. With Golden Child, Claire Adam, certainly has established herself as a voice to be acknowledged and listened to as she recalls her own memories and overlays them with fictional characters and situations that almost mimic those we have known in former years. The prose is rhythmic and the descriptions arouse nostalgia for the island setting that probably no longer exists except in our memories. Yet, the characters are relevant, timeless, demanding acknowledgement, exploration and understanding. While it might be easy to judge the parents and even the community that alternately chastises, cajoles and rallies around the boys, they are also the ones who have created the situation for the lost child scenario and one can only shake ones head at the holier-than-thou attitudes that each one adopts when it is convenient to place blame elsewhere. Yet, these are characters that beget our sympathy even as we congratulate ourselves that we are not in the artfully sketched rural community the author constructed within the pages.
I recommend this book to fans of The Mortifications by Derek Palacio for its discussion of how twins are incorporated and treated within families, particularly those with Caribbean backgrounds and whose lives are ordered by deep spiritual beliefs.
- Title: Golden Child
- Author: Claire Adam
- Format: Hardcover
- Pages: 281
- Publication Date: January 29, 2019
- Rating: 5 stars
I received a free copy of Golden Child from the publishers Hogarth Books and the Sarah Jessica Imprint and TLC Book Tours in order to complete this review. Thank you to Netgalley for also providing me with a free electronic ARC to do some advance reading. I do my best to keep my review honest and would not recommend a book that I didn’t truly enjoy myself.