That’s everybody’s book group will want to read and discuss this book: Everybody’s Son by local author Thrity Umrigar. We meet nine year old Anton in a literally stifling situation–a 95 degree apartment that he’s been locked in for a week. He is waiting for his mother to return. He is waiting to eat, since the little food that was in the apartment has long since been eaten. He can wait no longer. He smashes a window and wanders away to be picked up by police officers and taken into protective custody. His loving mother is passed out in a crack house.

Judge David Coleman, destined for greatness, hubris fairly dripping, decides fostering a child will help his wife, Delores heal from the loss of their biological son several years earlier. Anton’s potential is soon apparent, and David’s resolve to rescue and lift up the young biracial boy becomes obsessive. He knows people who can help his plan develop, and is swept up in his moral certainty that Anton’s mother doesn’t deserve to raise her own son. Juanita is given the maximum two year sentence, a harsh one for a first time offender. David manages to sidestep his ethics a second time and meet with Juanita before her release to convince her that Anton prefers to stay with Delores and him. He shares photos from ski trips and other extravagant vacations. He tells her that her son will enjoy benefits she couldn’t possibly provide. He tells Anton another story.

At Harvard, Anton meets and falls for a radical black girl who makes him confront his racial identity and look at white privilege. She says, “I can’t decide if you’re the whitest black man I’ve ever known, or the blackest white man I’ve ever known.”

Several years and three white girlfriends later, Anton is in line to become the next Governor. He receives a letter from Juanita and frightened that she will sabotage his campaign, or that she wants to extort money from his family, he covertly flies to Georgia to meet her. What he finds is the truth, and it guts him.

So much to talk about, including a stop by the highway patrol when Anton is driving through Georgia. His disrespectful treatment by the patrolman and driving an out of state car with a title that doesn’t bear his name make him prayerful and frightened, but the officer soon learns he’s the Attorney General of another state and respectfully sends him on his way. Umrigar presents a heart wrenching story chocked full of timely issues.

 

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