Title: Citizen Vince by Jess Walter
Book Beginnings quote:
One day you know more dead people than live ones.
Vince leans forward. "They don't tell you about that in the program. You get your voting rights restored, but what if you've never --" Vince shifts his weight.
Summary: Vince Camden, a small-time mobster who turned state's evidence against one of his bosses, is living in Spokane, Washington now in witness protection. He has a clean slate. He can become whoever he wants to be but for now he is still stealing credit card numbers and saving up his cash. His girl friend is a hooker, he enjoys playing poker, and he works as a baker in the Donut Makes You Hungry shop. He can even vote in the up-coming election of 1980. All is going quite well until an old associate fro New York shows up and Camden has to face his old life.
Review: Citizen Vince was this month's book club selection and half of our discussion was spent on why the librarian who selected it for the library book club kit would pick such a book. First, it was published in 2005. Secondly, it is a mystery, of sorts, the type of book which doesn't always lend itself to good discussions. And thirdly, it didn't fit neatly into the types of books we normally choose. What with our group being a bunch of old church ladies, our sensibilities were shocked by the foul language and the depraved settings and characters. Ha!
Actually I liked the book, rating it with 4 out of 5 stars. Voting was the theme and thread that was pulled through the book. It was a fresh and unique angle on voting, too. Here is an old mobster who gets to vote for the first time in his life and he doesn't know how to do it or who to vote for. It got me thinking. As a politically active person, I've never really thought about how confusing the whole voting process is for someone who has never done it before. Today, in 2023, many states are passing laws which allow people who served their time for felonies to get their voting rights restored. But in 1980 that wasn't a thing. Once a person was convicted of a felony, they forfeited their voting rights for life. As we know now that justice is not always equal so a larger portion of black and brown individuals couldn't vote than for whites. I found this aspect of the book quite profound.
Citizen Vince is funny and surprising and one more thing. Jess Walter is a Washington State author. We suspect that is why our librarian picked this book for the kit. Hey, he's a local guy!
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