Monday, January 10, 2011

Being Polite to Hitler

By Robb Forman Dew
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group
January 6, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-316-88950-6
304 pages

How many people just do not want to show up for work anymore? That’s how Agnes Scofield feels about being a teacher for third-grade students. At the age of fifty-four, she just doesn’t enjoy what she is doing and realizes that she never did. Since she was widowed, she was fortunate to have some friends which assisted her entering the teaching field. She became a teacher because she needed the money to support her four children, not because she wanted to be a teacher.

Agnes finds that her life in 1953 in Washburn, Ohio, is to be the focal point of a filmmaker who is documenting a story about life in middle America.

After she bumped heads with a third-grade student, Agnes has a throbbing headache which causes her to faint later. When she awakens in the hospital, Agnes discovers that there is a rivalry over her. Sam, a much younger man, has made it clear that he wants to marry her after believing that there is a romantic involvement with the filmmaker. Could these possibilities lead to better changes in her life?

The story transcends from 1953 to 1973 with Agnes being the focus of the story. Much attention is given to problems of the time such as the possibly contracting polio, the baseball world series, the Cold War issues, and the space race.

As Agnes interacts with her four grown children and their families, she just feels detached from them and does not really enjoy them either. She is noticing that she has changed over time and that she is still evolving.

Robb Forman Dew is a National Book Award for her novel, Dale Loves Sophie to Death. She has also written The Time of Her Life and Fortunate Lives. Being Polite to Hitler is the third book in a trilogy following The Evidence Against Her and The Truth of the Matter. Even without reading the first two books, this book can be a standalone. However, for a better understanding of the characters, it would be best if you read the first two. She is a resident of Massachusetts.

Being Polite to Hitler is about conversations and how people change by their choices. The beginning is a little difficult to connect with if you haven’t read the previous novels due to the many characters. Once you understand the characters, the novel begins to become engrossing with Agnes and her daily life.

How often do any of us pretend to be polite to someone who really does not deserve the courtesy? How many of us would be polite to Hitler? How do our choices affect our happiness? These are all considered in Being Polite to Hitler.

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