In this allegorical novel by Nobel Prize Winner, J.M. Coetzee, a six-year-old boy called, David, and a man of nondescript age called, Simon, are brought together as refugees on a ship sailing to a new life. They are greeted with bland "goodwill" from just about everyone they meet. They are assigned their new names and given an allowance and an apartment. Simon finds work as a stevedore even though he is much older than the other workers. He feels inadequate to the task, at first, but the others accept him and his slowness and frailty with "goodwill". Simon is frequently frustrated with the lack of passion in everyone around him.
Simon feels compelled to find David's "real mother" by which he means, not the woman who gave birth to him, but the woman who is destined to nurture him. He picks Ines, a thirtyish, spoiled woman who spends her days playing tennis and lounging. Surprisingly, Ines accepts David as her son. She and Simon go through many difficult times trying to deal with each other but they both always put David above all else.
The childhood of Jesus is a complex examination of such a wide varieties of issues we all face, but it never seems ponderous or plodding. The story of the man and child is enough to keep the interest while the deeper topics are slipped in the narrative as discussions between the characters. It is a thoughtful book for a time of uncertainty.