Son of Nothingness, A Novel of Appearances

Written by Ona Russell
Review by Ilysa Magnus

In 1949 in Los Angeles, Andrew Martin—born Andrés Martinez—is a successful attorney representing management against workers. He has turned his back on his culture and his people, his very legacy. Although he is well respected, his entire life outside the courtroom consists of unemotional sexual encounters and a marvelous parrot named Emerson. But Andrew’s life is circumscribed by painful memories—his father’s passion for union politics, his mother’s death, his rejection by the military. What Andrew has been left with is a syndrome where his leg feels like it’s not part of him. Yet Andrew has managed to subordinate all of that and lives his life superficially, day-to-day.

And then Penny, a Salvation Army member, enters his life with a secret that begins to haunt him. At the same time, Andrew is offered the opportunity to go to Sacramento to determine whether the US government is using ex-Nazis to spy on communists. The journey to Sacramento becomes a life passage and radically changes Andrew’s life and his understanding of his own history.

In this brief novel, Russell captures the very soul of Andrew. We join him in his revelations, his pain, his transition from a seeming robotic state to a shared humanity. The language is concise but sings in Russell’s talented hands. It is a wonderful read and shouldn’t be missed.