One of the Guys

Robert Clark Young, Author
Robert Clark Young, Author Cliff Street Books $24 (306p) ISBN 978-0-06-019365-2
Reviewed on: 05/03/1999
Release date: 05/01/1999
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-06-093189-6
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An implausible plot hampers the credibility of this earnest but awkward debut novel. Recovering alcoholic and drug addict Miles Derry sees the opportunity to escape his seamy life by assuming the identity of a Navy chaplain who has died of a heart attack during a backroom sexual encounter in a San Diego adult bookstore. After torching the naked corpse, Derry dons the dead chaplain's uniform and ships off to sea on board the U.S.S. Warren Harding. Derry manages to convince the hard-boiled crew, who have never seen the new chaplain before, that he is their man of the cloth. His gentle spirit and willingness to listen to the men make up for his complete ignorance about the military. The only sailor who is suspicious is removed by another convenient heart attack. Derry, determined to act morally and compassionately in his new incarnation, hungers to be accepted as ""one of the guys"" and to prove his worth to the men who serve as stand-ins for his condemning father. Endlessly detailed descriptions of military life include an overload of technical acronyms and forays into the lurid sex markets of the Philippines, Derry manages to cut a noble figure, much in contrast to the man he's impersonating, who carried on affairs with other military chaplains and deceived his faithful wife. The impostor even becomes a naval war hero and finally gets the respect he's always craved, and when he meets the chaplain's widow (the beautiful Michelle, also a reformed alcoholic), their erotic and spiritual affinity wraps up the tale far too neatly. Some vivid characters may help readers overlook this graphically poetic book's improbable plot structure. (May)
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