Mosley’s latest departure from his Easy Rawlins mysteries (Cinnamon Kiss, 2005, etc.) is a parable about the ineffable bond between two boys—one white, one black—raised as brothers.
A week after Thomas Beerman is born with a hole in his lung and a bleak prognosis for a short life inside a germ-free bubble, heart surgeon Minas Nolan’s wife dies in the same West L.A. hospital giving birth to her big, vigorous son Eric, who seems to have sucked all the life out of her. Dr. Nolan and Brianna Beerman soon become friends, then lovers, and when she signs her sickly boy out of the hospital on his advice, he opens his lonely home to her and Tommy. All goes well until Brianna dies when the boys are six and Elton Trueblood, the father who’s never done a thing for Tommy, turns up to claim him. The boys’ enforced separation is a disaster for them both. Tommy, beaten by his eternally angry father and unable to continue at the school he’s been sent to, takes to life on the streets, first hiding out in a private alley he makes his home, then making deliveries for a local drug-dealer. Eric, the golden boy who never has to make any decisions because everyone is drawn to him and everything is handed to him, realizes that his life is empty without Brianna and Tommy, the only people he’s ever been able to open his heart to. The brothers’ lives diverge in predictable ways (Tommy’s physical injuries, prison term and long tenure as a homeless person versus Eric’s unstoppable success as student and stud) with constant allegorical overtones en route to an anticlimax.
Though he doesn’t duplicate the austere power of The Man in My Basement (2004), Mosley makes his simple tale gripping through the studied artlessness of his storytelling.