... offers another fierce, revelatory literary experience ... In a riff on the conventional immigrant novel – which features bicultural protagonists tied to two countries, departed and arrived – Tenorio adds a clever twist by creating a citizen of nowhere: Excel is always in limbo, both legally and figuratively ... Tenorio has written a resonant story about what one family is willing to do to 'protect the child.' It’s seamlessly interwoven with cogent explorations of hybrid identity, racism, immigration history, shifting familial bonds, parental sacrifice, socioeconomic disparity, and even alternative social models ... The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that the Trump administration could not rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy on an accelerated schedule, bringing DREAMers back into headlines. That attention should give Tenorio’s affecting novel a well-deserved boost; he humanizes the lives imperiled by shifting immigration policies.
The Son of Good Fortune is not overtly political, remaining vague about the pressures the U.S. government puts on people like Excel and Maxima. Tenorio’s insistence on the specificity of his characters’ dreams and longings is its own kind of argument for their right to be here. The women in this book—Maxima, Sab, Maxima’s friend Roxy—are by the far the strongest and most compelling characters. And compared to his mother’s online scheming, Excel’s digital and real-life naïveté sometimes feel unconvincing, as though we’re meant to believe that hermetic disconnectedness is a form of self-protection. Still, Tenorio finds a way for Excel to exercise his own kind of nonconfrontational power ... Ultimately Tenorio’s novel is an affecting portrayal of just how potently a parent can shape the expectations of her child.
... sharp and compassionate ... Tenorio is a gifted, expressive writer about the Filipino American diaspora...With the novel’s wider canvas, he’s able to more deeply explore the moral challenges that being 'tago ng tago' presents for both Maxima and Excel ... Maxima’s racket drives the story to a tense climax, but Tenorio’s novel also delivers a powerful story about what it takes to uncover a sense of oneself when you've been forced to keep it under wraps.
... funny and poignant...couldn’t come at a better time ... Tenorio skillfully wrings high comedy from his characters’ boxed-in lives in a country that doesn’t know what to do with them ... Like the main characters of many coming-of-age novels, Excel’s retiring nature makes him less compelling than his supporting players. For instance, Maxima, a martial arts expert and internet-savvy firebrand, steals every scene she’s in...Tenorio nevertheless finds moments to highlight the son of good fortune’s pathos ... The novel’s back half centers on a big con, with Maxima and Excel teaming up to scam a white guy looking for love (that he can pay for). The line between the exploited and the exploiter blurs in fascinating and uncomfortable ways. The Son of Good Fortune is a timely novel that leaves its central question unanswered: Can’t we, as a nation, do better?
Tenorio, himself a Filipino immigrant, accurately and compassionately portrays the immigrant experience. From Excel’s and Maxima’s daily struggles for money to their fierce if unexpressed loyalty to one another, The Son of Good Fortune captures the lived experience of many new Americans ... Despite it universality, The Son of Good Fortune doesn’t lack for originality. With the whimsical excitement of Hello City and the craftiness of Maxima’s online schemes, the story finds a witty voice and sets a unique tone. Despite the drudgery and harshness of immigrant life, Tenorio explores the humanity in the tribulations and creates characters who are as lovable as they are real ... With his debut novel, Tenorio excavates joy from the immigrant experience, though he does his best not to diminish the suffering. If you cannot relate to this story, you can certainly learn from it.
... captivating ... Tenorio writes with great empathy and humor all while conveying the struggles of a family that just wants to feel at home. The Son of Good Fortune is a reminder that immigration is an issue that cuts to roots of many communities, the Filipino diaspora among them.
Tenorio creates an unusual perspective on Filipino culture and inspires readers to reflect on what it means to be an undocumented American from birth. What it means, essentially, to not belong anywhere. A thoughtful and challenging first novel.
While most interactions within this widening circle of relationships serve to advance the plot, a few of the roles feel a bit forced, as with Gunter's grandfather Zivko, who studies a dictionary at the pizzeria and slips words and phrases into Excel's lexicon. But the occasional diversion doesn't detract from the propulsive prose, captivating characters, and vital details of immigrant life, like the Tagalog phrase for undocumented Phillipinos, 'TNT,' which stands for tago ng tago: hiding and hiding. A masterfully constructed story of identity and ambition and an authentic portrait of one unforgettable Filipino family.
... mordant and moving ... Written with great empathy and sly humor, Tenorio’s tale of Excel and Maxima’s gradual reconciliation takes a searing look at the ways they’ve taken care of and failed each other. This is a wonderful achievement.