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The Onion Man Paperback – October 5, 2010
About the Author
This is a first novel for Willard C. Richan, author of a number of books, including Lobbying for Social Change, now in its third edition. He is a professor emeritus at Temple University. Since his retirement in 1993, he has been actively involved in educational and social issues in Chester, Pennsylvania, where he now makes his home. In the 1960s, Dr. Richan directed a research project that played a critical role in the federal court decision ordering the desegregation of the Cleveland, Ohio, public schools.
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Top Customer Reviews
I found The Onion Man to be an impressive work of fiction that challenges the reader to look beyond first impressions and question their often-too-hasty judgments of people.
The action is dominated by two memorable characters. Arthur, a retired professor who reflects many of the author's best qualities, is kind, likable, and struggling to cope with personal loss. Danny, an unscrupulous entrepreneur, seems primarily motivated by anger and fear. In revealing these characters to the reader, Dr. Richan eschews objective descriptions of their physical and psychological characteristics and instead exposes their motivations by intermingling the characters' private thoughts with their spoken dialog. His successful use of this device reminds us to look below the surface of the characters (how thin is the outer layer of an onion). Similarly, the reverse-chronological structure of much of the narrative allows us to reevaluate the characters with deeper understanding as we move through the work.
Another striking aspect of The Onion Man is the realism of the urban ghettos into which the reader is immersed. Given the author's professional and personal experience working (and living) in these environments, it's not surprising that he is able to depict with unrivaled clarity the state of affairs in the black and hispanic ghettos of Philadelphia and New York City. Not only does Dr. Richan effortlessly depict the housing conditions, dialects, educational and societal settings of the ghettos, he provides deep and realistic portraits of the people living there. Children, matriarchs, drug addicts, merchants are all sensitively portrayed as multilayered individuals deserving of more than a hasty judgment.
Overall, I enjoyed The Onion Man a great deal. Dr. Richan has created a compelling narrative, graced by vivid characterizations, that challenges us to consider the depth of character possessed by every individual.