The Fortunate Ones
Ed Tarkington is the mastermind behind this tender tale of love and betrayal, politics and social divide. A teenage boy growing up with a single mom in a low-income area of Nashville receives a mysterious scholarship offer to attend an elite private school for boys. Charlie Boykin is now in the midst of the children of billionaires and socialites, and the trajectory of his life is altered forever. The reader is left to ask, ‘Was it all worth it?’ This is a character-driven novel with a storyline as opulent as the mansions within.
A poor boy gets the chance to live among Nashville’s elite, and what follows is a tale of relationships, money, and good old Southern grandeur. Tight, effective prose illuminates the dark side of generosity and so-called good fortune.
The perfect read for fans of Succession or The White Lotus
“As a novelist, Tarkington is the real deal. I can’t wait to see this story reach a wide audience.”
—Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife
When Charlie Boykin was young, he thought his life with his single mother on the working-class side of Nashville was perfectly fine. But when his mother arranges for him to be admitted as a scholarship student to an elite private school, he is suddenly introduced to what the world can feel like to someone cushioned by money. That world, he discovers, is an almost irresistible place where one can bend—and break—rules and still end up untarnished. As he gets drawn into a friendship with a charismatic upperclassman, Archer Creigh, and an affluent family that treats him like an adopted son, Charlie quickly adapts to life in the upper echelons of Nashville society. Under their charming and alcohol-soaked spell, how can he not relax and enjoy it all—the lack of anxiety over money, the easy summers spent poolside at perfectly appointed mansions, the lavish parties, the freedom to make mistakes knowing that everything can be glossed over or fixed?
But over time, Charlie is increasingly pulled into covering for Archer’s constant deceits and his casual bigotry. At what point will the attraction of wealth and prestige wear off enough for Charlie to take a stand—and will he?
For readers of Wiley Cash, Ann Patchett, and Pat Conroy, The Fortunate Ones is an immersive, elegantly written story that conveys both the seductiveness of this world and the corruption of the people who see their ascent to the top as their birthright.
Praise for The Fortunate Ones
“Ed Tarkington’s wonderful second novel, The Fortunate Ones, feels like a fresh and remarkably sure-footed take on The Great Gatsby, examining the complex costs of attempting to transcend or exchange your given class for a more gilded one. Tarkington’s understanding of the human heart and mind is deep, wise and uncommonly empathetic. As a novelist, he is the real deal. I can’t wait to see this story reach a wide audience, and to see what he does next.”
—Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and Love and Ruin
“There's a sharpness to Ed Tarkington's view of the world, an exacting truthfulness of how things work, but he marries it to such an open-hearted and resonant humanity in his writing that it's hard not to place him easily in the company of Pat Conroy and Alice McDermott. In The Fortunate Ones, Tarkington examines privilege and friendship with that same incredible perspective, and he helps us see the difficulties of trying to hold onto yourself even as you want so badly to be transformed. An amazing, thought-provoking novel by one of our most generous writers.”
—Kevin Wilson, author of Nothing to See Here
“The Fortunate Ones has echoes of Gatsby . . . Tarkington [is] a talented and compassionate writer . . . [and] aspects of The Fortunate Ones echo a slew of classic novels, including As I Lay Dying, A Separate Peace, The Moviegoer, and Big Fish . . . Tarkington’s insight into the meaning of home rings true.”
—The Washington Post
“Readers who love a good wallow in the Southern Gothic steam bath of a Pat Conroy novel (The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini) are always ready to investigate a possible literary heir. The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington, set in Nashville through the 1980s and ’90s, bears all the markings of this lineage.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Tarkington’s prose glows like the sun hitting the chlorine-scented pool chairs lining the lush backyards . . . [H]is portrayals of quirky teachers, black tie galas and mysterious benefactors are biting and real. The Fortunate Ones is filled with good characters behaving badly, and vice-versa, perhaps best articulated by Charlie’s thoughts on his landmark painting: ‘I wanted it to express a feeling, an emotion I considered to be complex—the juxtaposition of allure and revulsion, guilt and desire, remorse and indifference.’ Tarkington succeeds, reminding the reader that the South is never perfect and privilege will always have a price.”
“A gorgeous, deep probing treatise on the myriad manifestations of love, envy, privilege, and longing… A fathoms-deep exploration of love, loyalty, and the ties that bind, written masterfully from all angles. It’s a laser-sharp look at the underbelly of power and privilege’s repercussions as told through the power of story.”
—New York Journal of Books
“In a narrative that smacks of privilege while also reckoning with its insidiousness, Ed Tarkington spins a southern yarn about manhood, family and desire . . . Although the relationship between [Charlie and Arch] could certainly be classified as toxic, it also compels the reader, and the intrigue intensifies as the novel depicts the reflections of the now-grown Charlie interspersed throughout his own coming-of-age story . . . I found myself rooting for a character that made deeply flawed decisions while still seeming like a deeply human (and indeed, humane) person.”
—Jackson Free Press
“In this well-considered coming-of-age novel set in Nashville, a boy learns that the trappings of wealth hide secrets, and he faces truths about loyalty and idealism.”
“The essence of Jay Gatsby’s self-destroying discontent charges the pages of The Fortunate Ones.”
—Christian Science Monitor
“For anyone disappointed in Tennessee’s response to any of this year’s crises, The Fortunate Ones is not to be missed.”
“Tarkington is a gifted storyteller, largely because he knows how to let his finely developed characters do the heavy lifting . . . An impressive literary balancing act that entertains as it enriches.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Delicious with drawn-out tension and intrigue, The Fortunate Ones is an atmospheric triumph.”
“[A] spirited coming-of-age story . . . Tarkington’s strong story of loyalty and the corruption of privilege transcends.”
“Ed Tarkington perfectly captures the heady, conflicted emotions that come with proximity to privilege—both the irresistible longing and the heartbreaking disillusionment. I’m recommending The Fortunate Ones to every book club I know.”
—Mary Laura Philpott, author of I Miss You When I Blink
“To the great literature of anointment, of the young person plucked from obscurity and given a place at the glittering table, we can now add Ed Tarkington’s lovely novel of a young man mystified by his good fortune until the reasons behind it are revealed and the cost is extracted. A beautiful read.”
—Ann Packer, author of The Children’s Crusade