Both a commentary on persistent racism and injustice within the prison system, The Fortune Men is difficult to digest. A black man wrongfully accused of committing a crime still reads eerily familiar to 21st-century audiences, as does the tensions between different ethnic and racial groups. Once reward money is offered to find the culprit, witnesses begin to materialize and the question remains: can innocence prevail over corruption?
The highlight of the novel is the relationships Mohamed creates between her characters; the reader feels injustice for Mahmood while also sympathizing with Gracie and Diana’s loss. Surprisingly, the center of the story is one of love—sisterly, romantic, and familial. Though each character has a distinct past, their choices are determined by their loved ones. Violet Volacki maintains her shop to honor her late father, while Mahmood steals clothes to preserve his relationship with his wife Laura. The ending, though, reveals that one’s actions and choices impact those beyond the immediate family.
If there is one shortcoming of the novel, it lies in the constant back and forth between narratives. In one part, the reader learns about Diana’s relationship with her ex-husband while in another, Mahmood’s time spent betting on horses. Parts that provide cultural background, such as Mahmood’s origin story, help ground the reader in the time period while others I found detracted from the overall message. The beginning built up to the murder, the middle somewhat tedious for me to read, and the ending—harrowing.