James L. Rubart. The Man He Never Was: A Modern Reimagining of Jekyll and Hyde. Thomas Nelson, 2018. See here to buy the book.
Toren Daniels used to be a football player. He had anger issues, stemming in part from the abuse that he endured from his father when he was growing up. He would take his anger out on the football field, but then he retired from football and took it out on his family. He struggled with his anger and would leave Bible verses around the house in an attempt to control it.
Eight months ago, Toren vanished, and people thought he was dead. Now he has returned, and he does not remember where he was for eight months. He notices that his anger has diminished significantly. Or has it? He is not as volatile as he was, yet his old self still manages to pop its head up. Toren is trying to reconcile with his wife and family, but his wife wants nothing to do with him and is dating someone else. A friend from college, Letto, is harassing him. And Toren feels he is being followed.
I have read James Rubart’s The Five Times I Met Myself. That, and The Man He Never Was, are about the human struggle with inner demons. Rubart writes with pathos, and his prose is quite vivid. In reading The Man He Never Was, one can almost feel as if one is experiencing Toren’s inner turmoil and his negative experiences.
The resolution to the book perhaps could have been deeper. The book had a strong sense of mystery early on, but my reaction to the resolution of the mystery was, “That’s it?” The resolution of the mystery still had intriguing elements, though, which brought to mind the movie A Beautiful Mind.
The happily-ever-after ending was all right. There was a touching sense of nostalgia over the past. Still, perhaps the book would have been better had Toren not gotten what he wanted in the end, for that would have provided an opportunity for him to cope.
Some may see the lesson of the book as saccharine and trite, but I found it inspiring. In the book, Toren finds that fighting with his inner demons only makes them stronger. He needs to love himself, and rest in God’s love for him. Here, though, the resolution was a bit rushed and under-developed. Doing those things is easier said than done. His earlier wrestling with himself was more vivid and believable than his living in the solution.
Still, this was an enjoyable book to read, and I am interested in reading more James Rubart novels in the future. The book also had an interesting factoid: that the Jekyll and Hyde novel was inspired by Romans 7.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through BookLook Bloggers. My review is honest.