The Man He Never Was by James L. Rubart (review)

themanheneverwas_rubart_thnelsonThe Man He Never Was is a modern retelling of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but it is also a compelling story that stands on it’s own as a work of contemporary fiction.  It is the story of a man who was willing to go to any lengths to conquer his anger issues, only to find that eight months have passed when he wakes up in a strange hotel room.  As he seeks to reunite with his family, he learns that they have quite happily moved on with their lives.  His reappearance leaves them shocked, shaken, and his children warily suppressing their more positive feelings.

This is a novel with characters that are relatable and a story that is full of heart and hope.  The mystery of where Toren Daniels had been for eight months, and his dogged pursuit of answers add a great deal of interest to what is otherwise a family drama.  And the answers are somewhat unexpected even though some of the twists are a bit telegraphed.  But this enhances rather than detracts from the story.

The minute I read the description of The Man He Never Was, I was intrigued in spite of myself.  I’ve never enjoyed Jekyll and Hyde characters or storylines (not even in the form of a certain rascally cartoon rabbit, possibly my first exposure to them), and here was a modern retelling by an author whose novels hadn’t previously appealed to me.

While this was definitely the best version of Jekyll and Hyde that I’ve experienced, it was let down in small ways by a few minor things.  There were occasions where it felt like there was a brief dumping of information, and the occasional word choice that pulled this reader out of the story to wonder how one drills with their eyes or stares “for an age.”

If you enjoy a modern take on a classic, a redemption story, and a bit of faith meets magical realism, then this just might tick all the boxes for you.  It is an arresting take in many ways, and there are moments that will stay with the reader after the book is closed.


The Man He Never Was by James L. Rubart | Thomas Nelson, February 2018 | paperback, 384 pages

This review refers to a finished copy I voluntarily received from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.


From the Publisher:

What if You Woke up One Morning and the Darkest Parts of Yourself Were Gone?

Toren Daniels vanished eight months back, and his wife and kids have moved on—with more than a little relief. Toren was a good man but carried a raging temper that often exploded without warning. So when he shows up on their doorstep out of the blue, they’re shocked to see him alive. But more shocked to see he’s changed. Radically.

His anger is gone. He’s oddly patient. Kind. Fun. The man he always wanted to be. Toren has no clue where he’s been but knows he’s been utterly transformed. He focuses on three things: Finding out where he’s been. Finding out how it happened. And winning back his family.

But then shards of his old self start to rise from deep inside—like the man kicked out of the NFL for his fury—and Toren must face the supreme battle of his life.

In this fresh take on the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, James L. Rubart explores the war between the good and evil within each of us—and one man’s only chance to overcome the greatest divide of the soul.

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