Rudy Waltz has the misfortune of accidentally shooting someone when he's twelve years old and then being labeled a murderer for the rest of his life. He also has the misfortune of having parents who were born into very specific roles in life and who made no attempts to improve or change their situation at all. This wasn't much of a problem until they lost all of their money in a lawsuit, and, having been rich, had no skills, etc. to aid them in becoming productive members of society.
I have mixed feelings about the "born into a situation" deal, or allowing circumstances to affect quality of life. I have pretty much always had mixed feelings about this, but obviously my current employment situation has made this even more complicated. I do think that being born poor or rich has much more of an effect on how someone will turn out than if they're born middle class. In the middle class example, success is pretty much based on personality, personal decisions and work ethic. It's unfortunate because I think we all deserve the chance to be the best people we can be, and I don't think those born with privilege or disadvantage are given that same chance. What's that? You're confused about the privileged not getting a fair chance either?
Okay, let me explain. If you don't have to work for a living or struggle to get something you want, are you going to do it? No. Okay, so why would you? I think people who have and are prepared to work hard and struggle tend to be much more well rounded people and more aware of exactly how difficult it is to produce good work. Strugglers have the benefit of developing skills they may or may not need in the future, and I think they also tend to be a little more ingenious in their thinking, mostly because they have to be. There are some obvious exceptions to this. For instance, the inventor of Facebook. Facebook is not really a necessity and it doesn't positively contribute to the community so much as it gives community a chance to function on a completely different level. Honestly, as cool as it is, Facebook doesn't actually produce anything, it is a Manager, which is exactly what I would expect someone of privilege to come up with as a solution for dealing with social situations; particularly someone who is not good with social situations.
So, poor people. The thing about being poor is that it is indefinitely hard to dig yourself out of that situation. The poorer you are, the more likely you are to know only poor people, because of the way our schools are set up and because of the way our society and social system is set up. I think too many of us are still under the assumption that people who are poor are poor because it's their fault. That might be the case in some situations, but we need to stop going to that thought as the default. Being poor can be a terrible demotivator and it's hard to let go of that feeling that you can't achieve success or a better situation for yourself when you've never been in a good situation.
Rudy found himself stuck in this same pattern. He even briefly managed to escape being "Deadeye Dick" when he went to New York, and he fell apart because he didn't know who he was anymore. He was so used to being the village murderer that he hadn't worked to define himself in any other way. Rather than focusing on his positive attributes as a person (his dedication to parents who didn't even recognize his contributions), instead he decided to "neuter" himself. Not in the way that Rudy thinks he neutered himself, which is as a sexual being, but in his potential to really achieve personhood. He killed someone, and he willingly forfeited his right to be a worthy individual (according to himself). This is a huge loss, because we do get to see a bit of Rudy's potential. How many real people are out there wandering around as neuters who are equally wonderful people and just need a little affirmation? People who need a chance to be something other than what they have been told they are.
I didn't rate it as highly, but I liked this review from a fellow Goodreader. I didn't find any book bloggers who had covered it.