. Athena's Books: A Changed Man...Needs More Change
Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Changed Man...Needs More Change

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Obviously, it is about a "changed man," and really it is the whole premise of the book that reeled me in (based on the book jacket).

By the way, it is not YA...

Short Summary(spoilers)

A recovering neo-Nazi finds himself in a suburban home with a ready made family of a forty-something divorced mother of two boys after he promises to be a spokesperson for an anti-hate organiziation with the hope he can prevent other guys like him from becoming guys like him.

First off, the neo-Nazi is named Vincent which in my mind just doesn't go together. The divorced mother is named Bonnie which also doesn't go well together since she lacks the spunk and confidence of a bubbly woman. Think putty colored business suits, sensible pumps, limp blonde ponytail, and no-nonsense right-hand-arm of the anti-hate organization for which she works.

So, how does Vincent end up here? Well, he was never really into the white supremacist scene. He has the anger issues, the idea that the media/goverenment has some huge conspiracy against the working man, and demeaning thoughts about women in general.  Bonnie's boss, a Holocaust survivor and founder of World Brotherhood Watch (whose last name is Maslow...reminds me of that whole humanistic approach from psychology...you know, the hierarchy of needs) thinks Vincent is harmless when it comes to being a serial rapist or anything of that sort and convinces Bonnie he should stay at her house until other living arrangements are made.
So, his initial conversion is not completely genuine (it was based on a drug high). He is just hoping world Brotherhood Watch will take him in and protect him from his crazy skinhead cousin, Raymond, from which he stole a truck, 1500 dollars, and a caseload of drugs. Then he ends up kicking back in front of a TV with Bonnie's son, Danny, and causing a specatuclar sensation for World Brotherhood Watch at fancy dinner parties and a Maury-like talk show where the former skinhead and the Holocause surviver are now brothers.

What I Think:
The big problem for me is that I just didn't really see how or when Vincent changed. I also don't see how he fell for Bonnie since they never really had one of those huge connecting moments. She took off her glasses once for him, they kissed briefly, and he thought about how it would be really easy to take advantage of her since she practically through herself at him. Oh, but wait...he is a changed man! He didn't even steal Bonnie's son's stash of drugs when he left town. What a changed guy! Then he gets to speak at a graduation ceremony because he is the reformed face of white supremacy.
I usually love everything written by Francine Prose, but I just wasn't crazy about this one. She definately got the right voice down for a semi-neo-Nazi and a bland suburban divorcee, but she just didn't make their voices come together. She just didn't create enought change in Vincent to warrant his golden ticket at the end of it all. The novel is described as darkly comic by the publisher, and I suppose that is why he is named Vincent and why he gets to be the keynote speaker and why a bunch of other stuff is included. But, it is not darkly comic enough for me. Or maybe it's that I am so used to reading first person YA that I just can't get too involved with darkly comic adult fiction.
But, I still want to read My New American Life, which also promises to be darkly comic. Maybe I'll get it better this time.