Even though she ostensibly played a writer on TV, I first became aware of Sarah Jessica Parker’s real life passion for books a few years ago when she posted on Instagram about reading Lisa McInerney’s “The Glorious Heresies”. At the time I had great fun joking with Lisa how this novel could be developed into a “Sex in the City”-style TV show set in Cork because its gritty world of gangs, prostitution and drugs was so ridiculously far removed from the upscale life of sipping Cosmos and designer shoes depicted in that series. But Parker has taken her perceptive eye for great literature to the next level by starting her own imprint SJP under the publisher Hogarth.
I was particularly keen on reading “Golden Child” by Claire Adam, the second novel published by this imprint (in the UK it’s published by Faber & Faber) because it came adorned with blurbs by authors I really admire like Daniel Magariel and Sara Taylor. It’s a moving story of a family in Trinidad who have twin sons, one who develops into the most academically gifted boy in the Caribbean and the other who experiences severe learning difficulties. When one boy goes missing the novel turns into a tense mystery and kept me gripped wondering what was going to happen. But the heart of this novel revolves around questions about favouritism in families and the meaning of sacrifice for a child’s future.
It really pulls on my heartstrings when I read about children who are cast in a certain role within a family and forever carry the burden of those expectations. This works both ways for children who are generalised to be either smart/stupid, responsible/reckless, entertaining/dull or a whole host of opposing roles. The fact that the boys in this story are twins makes the contrast between them all the more vivid as well as the fact that they aren’t treated equally. What this novel shows so powerfully is that children don’t fit into one mould or another, but have unique personalities and quirks which ought to be considered in helping them to achieve their full potential. Only a kindly Irish priest named Father Kavanagh takes the time to see the value in the “problem” child Paul. I do wish more time had been spent fleshing out the character of his twin brother Peter and mother Joy, but the novel mostly focuses on Paul and his father Clyde.
Even though my sympathy naturally went with the children in this story it’s admirable how their father is still so complexly and engagingly depicted. He’s somewhat trapped in a family that’s torn apart by squabbling over inheritance and ardently wants to do the best for his children – despite categorizing them. As a working class man he knows the real value of money and doesn’t want to miss elevating at least one of his children out of the circumstances he was raised in. But he’s put in an impossible and dramatic position where he feels like he has to choose between them. The environment of his rural neighbourhood in Trinidad is depicted as crime-ridden where each house requires security devices and guard dogs to protect the families within. At the same time, the author portrays the warmth, humour and (oftentimes gossipy) nature of the community.
This is a cleverly structured novel that powerfully portrays the complexities of family life and the difficult choices made in a strained environment.