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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Changed Man - Francine Prose

Vincent Nolan is a tattooed neo-nazi who decides to turn his life around. He leaves his white supremacist cousin Raymond's home taking Raymond's truck, money and drugs with him and seeks to remake himself. He walks into World Brotherhood Watch, a New York human-rights organization founded by Holocaust survivor Meyer Maslow, and states that he has had an awakening and "wants  to help you guys save guys like me from becoming guys like me." The organization takes him under its wing and trains him to perform in a dog and pony show on demand. He moves in with Bonnie Kalen, the organization's development officer, do-gooder and divorced mother of two boys. It appears at first that everyone involved has been drinking the Kool-Aid. Every now and then though we are given an inkling that Meyer and is not as bought in to the ideology as we'd been led to believe; we also get to see Bonnie's insecurities. 
Francine Prose gets inside the heads of her characters and understanding their individual motivations alleviates some of the difficulty we might otherwise have with a plot that challenges credulity at times. For instance, why would Bonnie, a caring mother, bring a skinhead on the run from a vengeful racist group to live in her home with her two sons, having known him for all of 5 minutes? Prose makes it seem plausible.
A Changed Man  raises the notion that hypocrisy can exist within humanitarian agencies, that even holocaust survivors have faults and it is an indictment of a media industry that feeds and thrives on shock value alone.
Nonetheless I had trouble swallowing the sappy ending. Life just ain't like that. Wish it were though.

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