A Changed Man: A Novel

  • Review
By – July 26, 2012

This is a mas­ter­ful­ly-writ­ten nov­el, illu­mi­nat­ing a dif­fi­cult sub­ject, and uti­liz­ing a vari­ety of effec­tive lit­er­ary tech­niques. The plot is appar­ent­ly based on the Simon Wiesen­thal Foundation’s employ­ment of a for­mer skin­head, which is men­tioned sev­er­al times here. Prose’s changed man,” Vin­cent Nolan, is a con­fused Nazi tat­tooed skin­head, a for­mer mem­ber of the Aryan supe­ri­or­i­ty move­ment ARM, who uses drugs and, among oth­er ques­tion­able acts, has stolen prop­er­ty from his cousin and host, Ray­mond. He enters the office of the phil­an­thropic World Broth­er­hood Watch Foun­da­tion, seek­ing to turn his life around. Then he ingra­ti­ates him­self with the founder and head, Holo­caust sur­vivor Dr. Mey­er Maslow, and is giv­en a job to “‘help you guys save guys like me from becom­ing guys like me.’” All along, Vin­cent attempts to fol­low the pre­cepts in a strange book he’d picked up some­where, The Way of the Warrior. 

Maslow per­suades his assis­tant, Bon­nie Kalen, a dis­card­ed wife rais­ing two young boys alone, to let Vin­cent live in her home for his reha­bil­i­ta­tion. This arrange­ment has ups and downs, par­tic­u­lar­ly since Bon­nie remains both­ered by how her faith­less hus­band has ill-used her. Prose explores the odd couple’s per­son­al­i­ties and needs. A major cri­sis looms: Vincent’s wronged cousin will some­day show up for revenge. It is intrigu­ing to fol­low Bon­nie, her domes­tic prob­lems, and her devel­op­ing attrac­tion to Vin­cent. Prose’s lit­er­ary style dom­i­nates, espe­cial­ly her method of reveal­ing the char­ac­ters’ thought process­es. Her free use of idiom and coarse lan­guage also val­i­date the story.

Samuel I. Bell­man is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at Cal­i­for­nia State Poly­tech­nic Uni­ver­si­ty of Pomona. He has been writ­ing on Jew­ish Amer­i­can writ­ers since 1959.

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