Michael's Reviews > The Soul Thief

The Soul Thief by Charles Baxter
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Jun 11, 08

Read in June, 2008

Quite disappointing. This whole novel (perhaps more a novella) essentially breaks down to a story of one man screwing with another man's life, ostensibly to teach a lesson about identity. Fine, OK, it's not a hopeless premise, but Baxter fails to follow through, providing the readers only with undeveloped characters working within a weak framework. Indeed, the framework, which shapes the fundamental point of the book (people keep calling the framework "metaphysical," though this is a misuse of the word to describe what is actually a very physical, underlying basis of the story) is ultimately discovered by the reader to be glib and dissatisfying.

What this book has going for it is a quick pace and a moderately interesting introduction to the plot. That got me into it and kept me reading. But when I reached the conclusion, I was disappointed by what felt like a gimmick--worse, a gimmick that failed to answer a number of questions that have come up along the way. My guess is, Baxter thought his ending was going to floor his readers and make them rethink the whole book. Well, I'm rethinking the book, and the more I think about it, the less worthwhile I think it was. It's sentimental without being insightful, and it only mocks profundity without possessing it--in quite the same way that Jerome Coolberg (a central character) does in the story.
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