There are not many books that can sell the idea of the traditional anti-hero as being deserving of compassion but this book does just that.
Abe it can be said is not a particularly nice person in the way that he treats both Inez and later his son Art but it is interesting to note that the burden that he carries of not being what he seems is in itself a mitigating factor. The stress hiding his true identity for over thirty years and of taking extreme precautions to prevent his identity being discovered is in the end his undoing as drink and violence destroys both him and his plans for redemption for committing murder in the past.
In mitigation he was a victim of abuse at the hands of men from his early years through to his marriage which was initially a good marriage until war destroyed the self-image of the person he refers to simply as The Man. Much of what ensues throughout the book is done as a homage to The Man – the need to remain living in Trenton, the need to make his life as a man and among men without discovery and the need to have a son – no matter the consequences for others.
It is a book that does raise the question of what makes us who we are and the role that being accepted by the local community makes in this.