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Secret Son by Laila Lalami

Secret Son by Laila Lalami

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4.36

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Published by Workman Publishing
Youssef el-Mekki, a young man of nineteen, is living with his mother in the slums of Casablanca when he discovers that the father he believed to be dead is, in fact, alive and eager to befriend and support him. Leaving his mother behind, Youssef assumes a life he could only dream of: a famous and influential father, his own penthouse apartment, and all the luxuries associated with his new status. His future appears assured until an abrupt reversal of fortune sends him back to the streets and his childhood friends, where a fringe Islamic group, known simply as the Party, has set up its headquarters.

In the spirit of The Inheritance of Loss and The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Laila Lalami’s powerful first novel explores the struggle for identity, the need for family, and the desperation that overtakes ordinary lives in a country divided by class, politics, and religion.
Youssef el-Mekki, a young man of nineteen, is living with his mother in the slums of Casablanca when he discovers that the father he believed to be dead is, in fact, alive and eager to befriend and support him. Leaving his mother behind, Youssef assumes a life he could only dream of: a famous and influential father, his own penthouse apartment, and all the luxuries associated with his new status. His future appears assured until an abrupt reversal of fortune sends him back to the streets and his childhood friends, where a fringe Islamic group, known simply as the Party, has set up its headquarters.

In the spirit of The Inheritance of Loss and The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Laila Lalami’s powerful first novel explores the struggle for identity, the need for family, and the desperation that overtakes ordinary lives in a country divided by class, politics, and religion.

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Publish date: Apr 21, 2009
Added to Scribd: Jan 08, 2009
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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08/21/2013

 
1
The Year of the Flood
he rain came unexpectedly,     g. I  , Y              k  g  -  . T       ,     g    b k. T ,      kg   g,    k. I           k      E,          . I  ,        ,   , . T     b, b        g,g   b,     bg       .T  g    bg  zz,   kg        b . Y’  k    k     -,  ,  g  k  g  ,  j   , gbb    b  ,  k 
 
4 laila lalami
   b. Y’  g    ,bk--    ,  g    , b  . H k  , g    g      . H  gz bk    g    ,   k   g ,    b bk ,           . H   ,  ; Y   b b  . H       b.O,     k   b    b,   gbb         ,       k. H       b g      ,  g g     k    . T  j g     gb  . H   g    g  .T  g      b,  , g  . “T  g    b g,” Y . H  kg    b  b g   ,  b  g. T   Gb,   Cï,       Mk,   Cb,   g   k    g   k  b. Mb      b    .H  k   . “W’   M,” . “I’           g.”“Y ,  , ’  ,” Y , g-g      , ,  g  
 
secret son 5
 . O b ,              k, bg ,    bk  . I    -g;       k  ,   b. A   b. T k b,   -,  g    k  g      k,  g   gkb g   g,   k.T      , g   . Y’    b   k   . “I’   ,”  . “I’    .“D’ b , -,”  . A,    k ,  g   g   g.E g  g   ,   -     . H ,  ,   . W   g,     k k  . H        k   S C, b b   k   k ,    g g  . S   . “D g  jk,”  . H  , g   g  g .he Star was not,  kg,  . T   b b      bg      b       gbg-   H A Nj. N-,       Cb b  g    ,  k,      j   k ,    

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lisa2013_1 reviewed this
Rated 3/5
recommended by: MonicaThis book has such an enjoyable writing style; it’s very accessible and the book is a really quick read, and a pleasant read, despite its tragic subject matter. This book had a good mix of the personal and political, heavy on the personal, which I liked. I got a great feel for various parts of Morocco and what it feels like to be an immigrant. I admired how while parts of this story are about big issues, the significance of the psychological aspects of family, including what’s happened in past generations, and of friends and community, and most of all the importantce of each person’s psychological makeup was shown clearly.It was a little weird at first but I ended up appreciating the separate sections to show the different points of view of the various characters. It was a bit jarring, but it was effective.This book is all about betrayal, both with malice and with supposed love and protection in mind. It’s also about the feeling of not belonging. It’s about poverty and injustice and other ills that can lead to poor conclusions.I understand depression despair, rage, and I could empathize greatly with most of the main characters, the privileged and the poverty stricken. But, I was still not so sold on some of the events, not really. I was a bit stunned by the ending, even though I had a good idea of what was coming. I felt some relief that in the end the characters did seem realistic and true to how they’d been crafted.My two main complaints about this book are what I consider a weak ending and the lack of humor. Yes, there are characters in good humor and even characters that experience amusement, but I was never amused. Perhaps it’s because I knew the gist of the plot before I read the book, but I felt that the book kept to a very narrow range of tone. I was very engaged when I was reading, at least up until toward the very end, but the way the story ended left me unsatisfied; I was gratified by how some of the subplots played out, but ultimately I was disappointed; I think I would have been much more pleased by so many different endings, sad or happy or any mix of the two. This is wonderful storytelling but the story ended up letting me down.
dubaireader reviewed this
Rated 4/5
Review for the unabridged Audible version.It is very hard for me to review this book as I struggled to understand the narrator, who had such a strong accent and put the sentance emphasis in the wrong place so frequently, that I felt I probably missed a lot of the detail. Having said that, the story itself has stayed with me and I'm rating it as a 4 star book in spite of the narrator. Perhaps it would have done better if I'd read it in hard copy, I wish I had.I really felt for Youssef el-Mekki, a likeable lad, caught in poverty in the slums of Cassablanca (Morocco). With the best of intentions, his mother had hidden the identity of his father from him and led him to believe that he had died in an accident, helping a neighbour. When, at the age of nineteen, he forces the information from her, he discovers that he is not the person he'd always imagined, but has connections to the wealthy part of the city. He decides to meet his father, with both exciting and disastrous consequences.I loved the portrayal of Youssef's mother, a hard working, long suffering woman, who loved Youssef, even when he abandoned her for a better life. Youssef's friends were also highly believable, and a typical mixture of good and bad.I don't know how I'd expected the book to end but I did find the given ending a bit abrupt, a bit off key. A bit of a shock, in fact.I shall certainly read Ms Lalami's book of short stories, but although it is available on Audible (with the same narrator), this time I shall read it in the printed version.
nabeelar_4 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
Laila Lalami was the first female Muslim author we read for our Ill Fated Muslim Book Club."Secret Son" chronicles a young Moroccan man's rise and fall within the patriarcal class society of modern Morocco.We chose this book for out book club because we had not read any works by women authors. Also, my husband reasoned that if we read a work of fiction, we would have to think about the book for ourselves. When Muslims are asked to read non-fiction about Islam, they tend not to read the book and simply repeat things they have heard from their imam, shaykh, parents, etc. We thought a fiction book would force people to think for themselves.The biggest surprise from this book was that men and women read it differently. The men dismissed it, saying they had already read this kind of story before. The women noticed that in "Secret Son", despite the fact that this is a patriarcal society, it is always the FEMALE characters that get what they want. The women are pulling the strings and giving men the illusion that the menfolk are in charge. In reality, the women call the shots.We were beginning to understand that for Muslims, single gender book clubs work very well: it gives mom her Ladies' Night Out, or dad his Guys' Night Out. Combining genders leads to not as much social fun (we witnessed a few marital disputes e.g. "Don't you tell me what I think!"), but men and women do read texts differently. These differences are lost when you have single gender book clubs.Despite the insight, no one was reading the books. My husband wanted to disband the club. I told him to wait until Ramadan, everything slows down and drops off the face of the earth then, but he wouldn't listen. He sent out this big email saying how if people couldn't commit to reading the book and attending the discussion, then the club would stop. Then a whole bunch of people started writing him saying, "No, don't stop the club!". Excuses were tendered, a number of women claimed to be reading the books but were unable to attend the meetings, and a "this is good for the community" guilt trip. A few claimed they enjoyed reading the books and would get the details of the discussion/debates in later one-on-one 'wrap-up' coffee talks. Based on this "no, no, keep it going" response, my husband decided to choose another fiction book written by a woman.
astridnr reviewed this
I usually review books as soon as I have finished them. I was so out of sorts after this one, that I couldn't write a thing. After a number of weeks, I am going to give it a shot. This was a book that seduced me into its exotic setting and characters. Down on their luck, the characters were people I was rooting for as the action unfolded. A mother and son living together in a slums of Casablanca struggle with their past. The young man, the product of his mother's liaison with a rich and influential married man, was never told the truth about his origins and discovers them by chance. It is a heartwrenching story that explores family relationships, loyalties, religious fanaticism, desperation, futility, and ultimately, loss. As a mother myself, I found it a difficult read. Not a fan of ill-fated plot lines and tragic endings.
shiv9597 reviewed this
Rated 5/5
The Secret Son by Laila Lalami is a fantastic book located in the country of Morocco.Youssef El Mekki is a young man growing up in an impoverished slum of Casablanca, Morocco with his mother. Even though he may not have a father which eventually shows up in the story, he is a great young man going through changes in his life which he may have to deal with.Even though I haven't finished the book so far I think it is truly amazing. Youssef El Mekki was shy, bookish, gullible, by turns sensitive to others’ feelings and oblivious to them. Early on in the novel, he finds out that his long deceased father, whom he believed was a poor, respected schoolteacher, is in fact Nabil Amrani, a wealthy businessman living in the same sprawling city of Casablanca. Youssef sets out to find Nabil and, much to his surprise, is welcomed into his father’s liberal, sophisticated, yet highly corrupt world. All though the main story was set against a background of Islamic fundamentalism and corrupt liberalism, I thought at first that those thematic concerns would be the main driving force in the book. But it was unlikely.If you're looking for a new book you should start reading this book. :)
mooodi_1 reviewed this
Great story, great setting and beautiful scenic transitions and I would probably say much of what other people who reviewed this book have said regarding the plot.However, it should be noted that one of the most distinctive elements that make this book so appealing to a large number of people is that it is set amidst a culture they are not familiar with, and so despite that it might integrate a large number of social issues in Morocco, it does not fair well as a standalone narrative.I appreciate her attempt to bring this humanizing story to the thoughts of the readers, but in the end, it seems that after everything it still comes out as an open ended story about futility. This caught me off guard as I have read a number of her articles and she seems a lot more concise and brave in stating her opinion, her thoughts about progress and her views on what should have happened.Naturally, I do not expect her stories to be a direct reflection of her journalistic pursuits, but it seems that in her book "Secret Son" she deliberately tread softly, fearing that the reader might put the book down if they didn't agree with what she had to say.I look forward to reading more or Laila's books where her more affirmative writing style is seen, and if published in English material that takes into account the diversity of the international English speaking immigrant populace.
devourerofbooks reviewed this
Rated 4/5
Youssef El Mekki is a young man growing up in an impoverished slum of Casablanca, Morocco with his mother. He has always been told that his father was a teacher who worked odd jobs for extra money and was killed in a tragic accident. Then, one day, he discovers that his father is truly a (living) wealthy business man who fooled around on his wife with Youssef’s mother. Due to the circumstances surrounding Youssef’s discovery and his attempts to reconnect with his father, Youssef begins to spend more and more time at the community center of a somewhat radical Islamic group known as The Party.I thought that “The Secret Son” was a fantastic look at the desperate circumstances that end up radicalizing many young men around the world. I really enjoyed the way the story unfolded, particularly through the end of the book. The beginning was a bit of a slow start for me, but once Youssef began to learn the truth about his father it really picked up. I really enjoyed this look into modern life in Morocco.
dreamqueen_1 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
This book is a dramatic introduction to the slums of Casablanca where Youssef is trying to find his place. I very much enjoyed the emotional journey he took and the sights and sounds the author exposed the reader to. The authors style is a hauntingly beautiful one. I will definitely read her books in the future. Thank you for the advance copy!
kdemott_2 reviewed this
Rated 3/5
I enjoy a book that takes you to a place that, chances are, you'll never visit and if you do, you'll be a tourist and never get a real feel for the place anyway. Youssef lives in the slums of Casablanca, an intelligent college student who finds it next to impossible to move above his low station. He lives under the belief that his father died early in Youssef's childhood. He comes to find out that his mother lied about the scandalous circumstances under which he was born and his father is actually a wealthy businessman. Youssef finds his father and, for a time, lives the life of a rich son, just to be cast out again. Forces combine to destroy the life of Youssef, something that seems inevitable after all.
msgemini_1 reviewed this
Rated 3/5
Secret Son was about a young man searching for his identity in the world. The story is a sad one but I found it hard to find an emotional connection with Youssef. The setting was well described and I enjoyed reading about Morocco. Just an okay story.

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