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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Citizen Vince

****½ Citizen Vince by Jess Walter. General fiction.

Someone recommended this, I'm not sure who. It's obviously not my usual reading material, and I love expanding my reading horizons, so I really appreciate the recommendation--if it was you, thanks!

Vince Camden works in a donut shop, a job he got when he moved to Spokane, Washington as part of the witness protection program. He also plays a lot of poker, and runs a low-level but fairly successful credit card scam. He's getting along, just kind of existing. Then two things happen that change his outlook and his life: he receives a voter registration card in the mail, and a hitman from back east shows up in town.

A felon from the time he was a teen, Vince had never been able to vote. But now with a new identity and a new start, he can. And Vince takes this privilege and responsibility very seriously. It's 1980, the Reagan/Carter election, and the question of whom to vote for consumes him. Actually, a more timely theme now than when Citizen Vince came out, back in 2005.

Vince is worried that the hitman from back east has come looking for him, and decides to set things straight, and pay his debts to cancel the contract on his life. In the meantime, the hitman is muscling in on his credit card scam, and Vince tries to protect his partners as well as himself.

Citizen Vince is billed as a redemption story, and it is that, but mostly it's a character study. It took me a while to warm up to Vince, but even when I didn't like him, I found him interesting.

The slightly historical setting was interesting as well--though it was rather painful to realize that events I remembered watching on TV in the East Quad dorm happened *gulp* 28 years ago.

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