A 30-year old Moroccan Arab, Nabil Amrani, gets entangled in an adulterous relationship with his pregnant wife’s nurse, Rachida, and this results in pregnancy. To save the honor of her family, Nabil’s mother sacks the nurse. Nabil gives her some money to go get an abortion. All this is kept a secret from Malika, Nabil’s legitimate wife. Malika gives birth to a girl, Amal. Initially the gender issue does not matter to Nabil, but later on when the subject of inheritance surfaces, it becomes an issue and Nabil regrets not having a son. When fired, Rachida relocates to Casablanca, keeps the pregnancy and five months after Amal is born, she gives birth to a son, Youssef. Nobody, not even Nabil, is aware of this. The story is woven around this deceit that eventually destroys them all.
An enthralling read, Secret Son, provides a window into Moroccan society – a society that has its share of ills, from unemployment to adultery. The story explores the importance of love and family and how exclusion, poverty and unemployment can drive victims to acts of desperation.
Secret Son was first published by Algonquin Books in 2010.
Laila Lalami is a novelist and essayist, and currently an associate professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside. Born and raised in Morocco, she attended Université Mohammed-V in Rabat, University College in London, and the University of Southern California, where she earned a Ph.D. in linguistics. She is the author of the short story collection Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award, and the novel Secret Son, which was on the Orange Prize longlist.