Golden Child is a powerful, tender, and very human story; it is one of the most emotionally-stirring novels I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. A meditation on time and place, Golden Child follows a family in 1980s Trinidad: Clyde, Joy, and their twin sons, Peter and Paul. When the unbelievable happens, a father must choose between his two sons, the golden child and the outcast. With this debut, Adam writes a thrilling contemporary novel, but the ending is the true standout here; its conclusion broke me and left me thinking deep into the night.
From the back cover:
Rural Trinidad: a brick house on stilts surrounded by bush; a family, quietly surviving, just trying to live a decent life. Clyde, the father, works long, exhausting shifts at the petroleum plant in southern Trinidad; Joy, his wife, looks after the home. Their two sons, thirteen years old, wake up early every morning and travel to the capital, Port of Spain, for school. They are twins but nothing alike: Paul has always been considered odd, while Peter is widely believed to be a genius, destined for greatness.
When Paul goes walking into the bush one afternoon and doesn’t come home, Clyde is forced to go looking for him, this child who has caused him endless trouble already, and whom he has never really understood. And as the hours turn to days, and Clyde begins to understand Paul’s fate, his world shatters- leaving him faced with a decision no parent should ever have to make. Like the Trinidadian landscape itself, Golden Child is both beautiful and unsettling; a resoundingly human story of aspiration, betrayal, and love.
“He senses trouble the moment before it starts: maybe he feels the dogs’ hackles rise, or hears the scrape of their claws against the concrete as they dash down the drive. Jab-Jab’s voice: high-pitched, fast, urgent; Trixie making that deep, snarling sound that she hardly ever makes; and Brownie, with a thin high-pitched bark that lengthens at the end to a howl.”
-Claire Adam, Golden Child
I adore novels with incredible ambiance, where the setting reads like a character in and of itself, yet those kinds of stories are often few and far between. With Golden Child, Adam achieves this brilliantly, making rural Trinidad the stage and everyone else simply players. From the people to the houses to the dogs, Adam beautifully sets her scene, offering up detailed descriptions while keeping her writing spare and to-the-point: no flowery nonsense here, just pure elegance.
This heavy emphasis on place might suggest a lack of focus on character, but Adam strategizes this imbalance to work in her favor. Though the characters are not fully fleshed out, they are given just enough description that one has the ability to predict their future actions while still questioning their motives; Clyde’s decision in the novel’s conclusion still shocked me as a reader even though it remained true to his character.
And speaking of the conclusion… what a stunner! I almost couldn’t believe it; the ending left me speechless and had my head spinning with disbelief. If you want a book that will absolutely wreck you, pick up Golden Child, and you won’t be disappointed.
Thank you to SJP for Hogarth for my copy of Golden Child by Claire Adam. All thoughts are my own.
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