- The narrator of Fortunate Son is Jake, a 21 year-old who has recently arrived in Tucson, Arizona, after
the death of his mother. He's spent his entire life on the road with his mother, possibly followed and
antagonized by his father, whom Jake has never seen. He has come to Tucson to live with his only
relative (aside from his father), a great-aunt Rosie, the owner of a trailer park.
Jake quickly meets Cristobal, a mysterious and intelligent man who takes him to the Salt River, where
Jake then meets a ghost who claims to be his father (and follows Jake for the length of the novel).
Jake also meets and seduces one of the trailer park tenants, a young college girl named Clarissa Jones.
She introduces him to her father (Mr. Jones) and sister (Kate). In Mr. Jones, Jake finds a man who
could serve as a possible father figure, and in Clarissa, he finds a steadfast girl-woman who is rooted
down in life, who provides an anchor he's never had. Jake pursues these relationships in full zeal,
realizing that they offer a chance at a "normal" life.
Reports of a serial killer filter into the story, a man who is praying on the homeless Hispanics (among
others) in an outlying town. Cristobal hints that he may go after the killer. The ghost, still claiming
to be Jake's father, intimates that he may have been killed by the murderer.
Slowly, Rosie (Jake's great-aunt) succumbs to cancer and dies; before she goes, Jake nearly abandons
her in fear and shame, and his role as nephew is filled by a trailer park tenant, Wayne Robinson, who
clearly hates Jake; when Rosie dies, Wayne goes screaming off into the night.
Soon after, the killer is in the newspaper headlines -- and the suspect is Cristobal, who has
disappeared. Jake fruitlessly goes searching for him, knowing he is wrongly accused. It's not long
until the pressures of saving his friend, avenging the ghost, and Kate's and Mr. Jones' recruiting
tactics lead Jake into a vigilante search for the killer/rescue mission for Cristobal.
On the eve of the story's climax, in which Jake and Mr. Jones stumble into the killer's path, Jake
learns that Mr. Jones has known his real father all along, a man alive and living in Tucson. Jake
nearly abandons the hunt in despair, but is convinced by Kate to continue. Jake and Mr. Jones then
run into Cristobal, who claims to also be searching for the killer. Mr. Jones doesn't trust him, but the
three go to the most recent murder sight, where Cristobal runs away. The police appear, arresting Jake
and Mr. Jones for interfering with a crime scene.
In jail, Mr. Jones admits that he knows Jake's father, and that he's been struggling with his own
conflicting loyalties in trying to reunite the two. Jake is bailed out by Kate, who leads him to Clarissa.
Clarissa admits that she's guessed about his father all along, and claims her religious guilt won't allow
her to continue seeing Jake. As they drive home in silence, Jake notices they are being followed.
Alarmed, he stays up on his porch with a loaded gun, worried that the killer has been following them.
Soon, he drifts to sleep. Jake awakes to a gunshot and races over to find Cristobal standing over
Wayne Robinson, the ex-tenant who hated Jake. Cristobal proclaims Wayne the murderer and kills
him. The mystery is solved and Jake's ghost is avenged.
The story ends concurrently with summer: the Jones girls go back to school, Cristobal away after
having received local acclaim for catching and killing the serial murderer. Clarissa moves out of the
trailer park, still unable to speak to Jake, accompanied by her father, also disillusioned by his
treatment of Jake. As Jake sits in his trailer one afternoon, his real father appears in the flesh, and
they have a short conversation in which it's implied that Jake will grudgingly allow the man into his
life. After his father leaves, the ghost visits once more, only to realize that he is not Jake's father. He
soon leaves, too. Jake is left staring out at the silent trailer park.
In this novel, I've tried to blend the mystery of a revenge tragedy with an exploration of the family,
specifically the relationships between fathers and sons -- but also parents and children in general.
Behind this looms the backdrop of Tucson and the American Southwest, a region which I've tried to
portray vividly and accurately, if also with an element of surrealism.