Cover Image: The Son of Good Fortune

The Son of Good Fortune

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<b><i>ARC Review: Received for free via NetGalley for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Thank you to Harper Collins/Ecco and Lysley Tenorio for the opportunity to review this book.</i></b>

<i><b>CW/TW:</b> knives, online scamming,  fake stab wound, child abuse, violence, mention of: death; parental death; alcaholism; drug abuse; illness, deadnaming, grief, underage drinking, vomiting, marijuana, immigration, fire, abortion</i>

The ending has me weeping because there is so much hope filled in it. It's not 100% a happy ending but more a hopeful ending where one can see that so much more can come out of this life.

I hope that everyone can get what they wish for and that life will be better for all the characters.

There is so much to unpack in a book like this one but the one thing that I can clearly declare is that this book is so good and I think it will do a lot for children in the diaspora and who are undocumented. This feels like a nook that will make these kids feel seen and understood.

I was so stressed in the last few chapters, I was really there thinking 'please nothing bad, please nothing bad' becuase that's what I was expecting, what I've almost been conditioned to expect. But this book here said no sad ending and thank you Joker! 

I love that despite everything there's still hope for Excel and Maxima despite everything. I love that they have a future to look forward, that even though it's unsure and uncertain they still have a hope that the future may work out, that things may still come together.

This book isn't soft in a traditional sence, but it doesn't hurt to read (which I was afraid it would do and therefore made me take forever to read). I didn't leave this book feeling heartbroken and hating everything, but instead left with an uplifted heart and satisfied and stress-free. No lie, I think this book eliviated my anxiety just the tiniest bit and wow, I didn't even know that I needed that.

I loved the story so very much. Excel isn't a perfect character, he has so, so, so many flaws. And so does his mother. And so do a whole lot of the other characters in this book. But I feel that makes then so much more real. Their flaws make them more real, more human. Despite everything you feel for them, want them to succeed, want to see them go further in life.

There is a lot I liked in this book that I won't talk about becuase spoilers, but there is so much care put into this book that it makes me love it more post-reafing. Going into this review I did think I'd give this book a 3 (three),maybe 3.5 (three point five), but sitting here, writing this review makes me think it deserves a full 4 (four) becuase yes it still has its flaws, but I also find it so lovely and the ending just makes me want to happy sigh.
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OMG, I love this book, fully character driven and I couldn't get enough. I highly recommend. Thank you,  Ecco for this gifted copy.
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A lovely read, this novel really shed light on perspectives I’ve never been exposed to before. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to read this piece. I was definitely more entranced by Excel’s life at home; his time in Hello City just didn’t bring much to the plot (in my opinion). I loved the growth in the characters and the unveiling of intentions. A fantastic story of sacrifice, love, determining what constitutes home, and discovering the self when your instincts are to hide.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Ecco for the reviewer copy. This is a powerful #ownvoices look into immigration. An important read to understanding immigrant narratives within the United States through the lens of Excel. This is not a fast read, take your time, and the authors intent. I found the text profound and timely, I highly recommend.
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This book had heart and likable characters, and there was a lesson to be learned. However, I thought that what should have been a more serious topic - immigration and not feeling a sense of belonging in what you've been calling home - was shrouded in a little too much humor. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially if you're looking for an easy read with serious undertones, but I went into it thinking it would be heavier. I enjoyed this book and finished it quickly, but ultimately it turned out to be a bit forgettable. I'll recommend it to others if they ask about it, but I forgot about it promptly after finishing.
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The Son of Good Fortune follows undocumented Filipino mother and son, Maxima and Excel, in California as they struggle with survival and keeping their undocumented status a secret. I really wanted to love this book, but unfortunately, for the majority of it I was very bored. The non-chronological back-and-forth writing style was likely meant to make up for the lack of plot, but it only served to emphasize it. That being said, about two-thirds in the plot did get a bit more exciting and there was something interesting to see how it panned out. I did appreciate how the book ended and where the characters' relationships were at the end.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writing was smooth and pulled me right into the story. I felt like I was walking right beside Excel on his journey. This book was emotional on so many levels and took me from joy to sorrow and everything in between. I WANTED to engage with the characters, to be a part of their lives, to dig deeper. This is very hard for an author to accomplish and this was a book that was written absolutely beautifully. Lysley worked magic with this book and I grateful I received an ARC.
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I was disappointed in the end of the book. Plus I really didn't get into it until I was about 80% done.

Still, it's worth reading. If for no other reason than to gain perspective on life as a U.S. "citizen" minus the paperwork.

I guess the lesson is that life is hard and we do what it takes to get by in this crazy world.
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In his debut novel The Son of Good Fortune (Ecco, 2020), Lysley Tenorio paints an unforgettable portrait of 19-year-old Excel Maxino, an undocumented Filipino teenager who frequently tells himself he isn’t “really there.” Poignant, tender, and surprisingly humorous all at once, The Son of Good Fortune is a coming-of-age story that reflects on the often untold Filipinx immigrant experience shared by both Excel and his mother Maxima, a former B-movie action star. While Excel and Maxima’s story is not new to the world, stories like theirs are underrepresented, and I strongly urge everyone to give Tenorio’s novel a read. The Son of Good Fortune was released on July 7, 2020. 

As a Filipina American and daughter of immigrants, I hold this novel especially close. And although Tenorio masterfully develops Excel’s relationships with characters such as his girlfriend, Sab, and Z, the Serbian grandfather of his boss at The Pie (a spy-themed pizza parlor), I would like to focus primarily on Excel’s relationship with his mother. The Son of Good Fortune cleanly jumps back and forth in time, alternating between Excel’s current life with Maxima in his hometown of Colma, California and his past stint in Hello City with Sab—a period of nine months during which Excel disappears from his mother’s life under the guise of taking a job to make “important discoveries” in the faraway desert town. The novel opens with Excel returning home to Maxima, but his silent escape from the life they shared creates a wall between them, and the complications in their relationship are far from over. 

While Excel and Maxima’s story is not new to the world, stories like theirs are underrepresented.
While once an action movie star, throughout much of Excel’s childhood and into the present, Maxima makes ends meet by scamming American men in pursuit of a “perfect Asian wife.” At first glance, Maxima’s character may seem to feed the stereotype that Filipinx women are “gold diggers”; however, Tenorio portrays Maxima with nuance, sensitivity, and respect. In fact, only through Maxima do we learn about the loneliness that immigrant parents often face and the unending burdens that immigrant parents often carry. Excel himself may seem uncomfortable by his mother’s choice of profession and even refuse to wear the shoes she buys him with her newly earned money, but Maxima’s work and love for her son are ultimately what save him from the trouble he stumbles into at Hello City. Even as Excel continually shields his mother from many aspects of his life, such as the fact that his girlfriend is currently pregnant and that he owes Hello City no less than $10,000, Maxima’s love for and loyalty to him is undeniable. 

Perhaps the largest complication for Excel is his and his mother’s undocumented status. On Excel’s tenth birthday, Maxima brings him to San Francisco to celebrate—and tell him the truth. She explains that they’re “TNT,” tago ng tago, or hiding and hiding. Born on a plane somewhere between the Philippines and California, Excel is undocumented, and even at ten years old, he finds that many things in his life begin to make sense. Throughout the novel, we see how Excel’s awareness of his “TNT” label influences his life as he retreats to the shadows and aches for an escape. 

Despite all obstacles that create distance between mother and son, Tenorio gives us tenderness and light as much as everything else. Excel and Maxima visit the grave of a loved one together and mourn; they attend the first-ever American screening of Maxima’s most successful movie, Ang Puso VS. Ang Baril Mo (The Heart Vs. Your Gun); Maxima saves Excel from his surprisingly bad fortune again, again, and again. There is love on every page, in every moment, and I believe this novel is a gift, especially as a Filipina American reader. On a small scale, it is always exciting to see my culture reflected in media I consume as I don’t always get to read about characters enjoying pancit, one of my favorite noodle dishes, or talking about balikbayan boxes, which are often used by diaspora Filipinxs to send gifts back home. On a much larger scale, I am so proud and grateful to see underheard stories like Excel’s amplified through such smart and enjoyable literature.
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Maxima, and her son, Excel, are undocumented Filipino immigrants living in California--trying to survive while staying under the radar of the authorities. Maxima is an interesting character: trained in martial arts and had parts in Filipino B-movies, but currently conning men out of money via Internet dating sites. Excel's story alternates between his time with his girlfriend in a commune and the present as he tries to earn money working for an abusive employer. While there wasn't a whole lot of plot, this was definitely worth the read to get a glimpse into life as an undocumented immigrant where the fear of getting caught overshadows things citizens take for granted.
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The Son of Good Fortune

The Son of Good Fortune is an immersive and character driven story about the harsh realities of being an undocumented immigrant in the US. Tenorio brilliantly narrates how the paranoia of being discovered for fear of deportation affects families and the children of these immigrants, while struggling to survive.

This story is centered in Maxima, a B actress from the Philippines who came to America to escape exploitation and a dwindling acting career. While on the plane, from Manila to San Francisco, a very pregnant Maxima delivers a baby boy Excel. At 10 years old, Excel learns from her mother that they are both undocumented immigrants hiding in plain sight a TNT, which is a mnemonic for the Tagalog term for ‘Tago Nang Tago’ or Hiding and Hiding.

This harsh realization of their status affects Excel in so many ways where “I am not really here” affects his identity and the relationships he has had throughout since. Keeping such a secret that had been ingrained by her mother for fear of discovery and their lives being uprooted only to be sent away when discovered.

This stunning story touched my heart being a first generation immigrant myself. As I read the passages, this story resonated with the sacrifices my parents had to go through for their children to have a better life and future.

Living in Los Angeles , I knew of neighbors and friends who were undocumented, and how they lived in fear everyday, have menial jobs, suffer through injustice and abuse, unable to report or say anything in fear of being reported, only to survive another day. This book touched upon the all so real experiences of these families through Maxima and Excel’s stories. This truly was an incredibly well written immigrant story.

I was able to listen to this book in audio as wonderfully narrated by Reuben Uy. The voices were so distinct for each character, and the accents were amazing and done so well. It definitely added to my reading experience listening to this in audio. There were many parts I became quite emotional, and I highly recommend this in audio!
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This is a mother and son relationship story with a different slant. The story moves slowly to show the dynamic built between these two under the circumstances of being illegally in the country. The son, Excel, has never known a different life. Neither have the ability to gain legal employment but there are people who help them make it day to day. The mother, Maxima, seems emotionally cold and controlling but her actions demonstrate her true, hidden emotions towards her son. The story is thought provoking and shows how isolating their existence can be. Always hiding. Nothing is easy. Family contact is constrained because of the inability to travel.  I recommend this read for those wanting a view into the way others live and survive.
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The Son Of Good Fortune is best read without knowing too much about the plot, so all I will say is it is a coming of age story. The story is incredibly well plotted, which made for a compelling read. The book felt somewhat nostalgic in the way  it described places. The relationships felt real. I enjoyed The Son Of Good Fortune.
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The Son of Good Fortune was offered for free in one of HarperCollins' book perk emails (highly recommend signing up to it if you have not done so already) and I quickly requested it. However, it did sit on my Netgalley shelf for a couple of months because the cover and the title didn't really appeal to me. I decided to give this a go whilst I was visiting my parents and I'm so glad I did. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I was going to!

Excel is a 19 year old man who, along with his mother Maxima, is TNT (hiding and hiding). Maxima is in the USA illegally and Excel was born on the flight over from the Philippines, so Maxima does not seem to have registered him and so he is illegal too. Due to their situation, they are taken advantage of by landlords and employers who know they are unable to complain or contact the authorities, so live a pretty hard life.

As a result, Excel leaves home with his girlfriend to live in Hello City in the middle of the desert, but returns home after he burnt down the town square. Maxima also starts scamming men on the internet to make ends meet. One would feel sorry, but the men she is in contact with are utter scumbags (not that it makes it ok, but it was interesting to see the other side of this in this book).

The story is one of struggling to survive whilst TNT in America as well as an account about a mother and son relationship and the tension between them.
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The Son of Good Fortune is an insightful debut novel about an undocumented Filipino teen and his mother, and their struggle to survive and belong. Nineteen-year-old Excel has become accustomed to hiding ever since Maxima told him he was undocumented on his tenth birthday. I loved the glimpses of his childhood, his everyday life, and the details specific to his experience as a Filipino American. Tenorio captures the anxiety of constantly striving to be invisible so well.

Maxima is a captivating character, a former B-movie action star in the Philippines who now makes a living by manipulating men she meets online, men who are looking for a ‘perfect Asian wife’ from across the ocean. As we see her conversations with these men, we're asked to question, who is the one exploiting the other? To help repay Excel's debt, Maxima brings Excel in for the first time. Excel starts to live a sort of double life, finding a kinship to the role he's playing, but also a contrast to his reality.

But Excel hasn’t just been striving to be invisible to the outside world; over the years, the feelings he’s hidden from Maxima have built up into a distance so wide that when he left home, he had intended to never return. There's so much between them that has been unsaid for so many years, and ultimately, this complicated relationship between mother and son is the heart of this novel. I definitely recommend this book!
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Resiliency, fear of being discovered as undocumented, and the search for a better life are all key aspects of The Son of Good Fortune. Maxima is a clever, strong, and beautiful woman who used to be an action star, but left the Philippines after becoming pregnant with Excel and moves to Colma, California in hopes of better opportunities with her mentor Joker. Excel is trying to figure out who he is and how to pay back a major debt. He struggles with wanting to be seen but also having to hide who he is. Excel and Maxima are both flawed but thoughtful and resilient characters that highlight the complexities of undocumented families and the feeling of both love and anger at a parent. This work is complex, and highlights how undocumented individuals have limited opportunities in a country that is supposed to be a land of dreams. I highly recommend this debut novel. I received an advanced reader copy of this work in exchange for my honest review.
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An interesting, different angle on the ‘undocumented’ situation.  This shows a Filipino family’s drama, their efforts to remain viable and ‘under the radar’, told from the son’s perspective.  Pretty short, quick easy read.  Interesting look into different lifestyles.....
I receive this e-ARC from the publisher HarperCollins/Ecco via NetGalley, after offering to read it and post my own fair and honest review.
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An engrossing story of an undocumented Filipino mother and son where immigration status influences everything they do. The reader is pulled into their lives and although you may not agree with their actions, the novel shows you why they chose them.
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A fascinating story about the lives of a young man and his mother from the Philippines who are TNT, tago ng tago, running and running, or in other words, undocumented immigrants.  I didn't know anything about this book when I received an ARC of it from NetGalley, and it was such a pleasant surprise, one of my favorite books this year!  I really enjoyed the story and felt drawn into the lives and personalities of all the characters so much that I wanted all of them to succeed, even when they were at cross purposes to each other.  Author Lysley Tenorio got my attention quickly with an engaging story and I couldn't put it down. I think that's the test of a truly great author.
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The Son of Good Fortune


I really enjoyed this unusual story of an undocumented Filipino and his mother.  I was hooked from page 1 as we witness Maxima’s webcam act of enticing men over the internet to be interested in her and bilking them for dollars.  What  a way to make a living!

But it is the narrative of her 18 year old son Excel that ends up being the bigger storyline.  A young recently graduated from high school undocumented boy who looks young for his age is trying to find his place in the world. His love for Sab and their weird life together took me to a new level of understanding how hard it can be for some young people, especially undocumented ones, to find their way.  Excel ends up returning to the home where he grew up and to his mother, Maxima. The plot only gets thicker from there. 

I will remember Excel long after I’ve put this one down.  

Thank you Net Galley and Harper Collins for the opportunity to read and review this ARC
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