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The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (October 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155652241X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556522413
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (167 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Alligators breeding in the sewers of New York City is an urban legend; thousands of people living in the tunnels beneath New York is not. Ms. Toth has written a compelling, compassionate and extraordinary documentary about the "Mole People."

From Publishers Weekly

Toth's firsthand account of the sad, bizarre subculture of people who live in New York's abandoned subway tunnels and sewage lines.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

"Mole People" is a very real and grasping book, it is a book that makes you think.
Anonymous
She jumps all over the place making the book seem like a series of short stories....and not very good ones.
B. Galuska
The book Mole People is a non fiction story about the New York underground homeless by Jennifer Toth.
shadow blade

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

145 of 155 people found the following review helpful By Shannon B Davis VINE VOICE on January 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
My birthday gift was "The Mole People - Life in the Tunnels beneath New York City." Both subterranean landscapes and alternative societies have always fascinated me, and this book contains both. New York City has some of the largest and most inhabited underground spaces of any city in the United States, and the homeless population is more visible there than some other cities. The book changed how I thought about the homeless. I avoided contact with them because they can be unpredictable. I pretended I didn't see them, thinking soup kitchens and shelters would help them. Although the book reinforces that homelessness is often a choice, it taught me that the homeless are not much different from me.
It's amazing how much space there is belowground. So many abandoned tunnels for trains, gas lines, and water. One can still wire electricity, and some abandoned subway stations still have working bathrooms. Cubbies built to house maintenance workers now house the homeless. One community got water from a broken pipe where they showered and washed their clothes. Another even had a microwave. One wonders if any of them have Internet access.
I found it interesting that many tunnel-dwellers did not want to return to the surface, or to a normal life. They are the ultimate outsiders, and they have idealist views of their own lifestyle, while believing the surface is not for them. They are invisible, outcasts, on the surface world. Life is not better there. Underground they have a family and a purpose. Men who couldn't find work and provide for the family on the surface world can be productive members of "society" beneath the ground. It amazed me how much they helped one another, forming communities where each person had their role.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By H. J. Wakenshaw on July 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
Anyone with an interest in homelessness should read this, especially if you enjoyed Lee Stringer's autobiographical "Grand Central Winter". Toth explores the areas that Stringer didn't, literally and figuratively, delving deep into the bowels of NYC, and into our collective conscience to uncover the Mole People.
Whether you believe in the existence of the Mole People or not, (and if they do not exist, I find it difficult to understand why a sizeable police team has been assigned to deal with them) this is a fascinating book; quite difficult to put down, which is high praise for a work of non-fiction on such a grim subject. Toth writes in a vivid, but honest and open way about her tunnel experiences; her youth lends clarity and simplicity to what could, from the pen of an older writer, have become a messy opinion laden tirade against society's ills. Here, the stories are fresh and vigorous, tinged with sympathy, humour, sadness, but above all, evidence of the author's enormous respect for her subjects. Toth gives no answers. The pasts of the people she introduces to us are hazy at best, and while sweeping generalisations can be made about why they chose to live underground, Toth herself is never so arrogant as to try to offer solutions or even possible causes for their problems. She challenges widely held ideas about how much of a problem the underground homeless are without either condoning or criticising any single individual or agency. She is always balanced, whether dealing with policemen or the homeless man whose stories about himself seem to change as often as the weather, absolutely non-judgemental, which in a book of this type, is refreshing.
The stories she tells are almost all unbelievable.
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful By J. N. Mohlman VINE VOICE on May 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
In "The Mole People" Jennifer Toth tells the story of the New York City homeless who have taken up residence in the subway tunnels and sub-basements of Manhatten. In clear, eloquent prose, Toth introduces the reader to the genuinely surreal existence of people who live out much of their lives in dark, man-made catacombs. With both the eye of a scientist and the compassion of a concerned human being, Toth examines what has driven these people underground, and how it is they exist in such an environment.
This book is astonishing in that something that reads like a bizzare work of fiction is in fact true. It is hard to believe that people could or would live in subway tunnels. but Toth's reporting is compelling. My one complaint is that she didn't do much to research the architetural aspects of sub-surface NYC. I suspect she would have done much to silence her critics if she had mapped her travels and compared them to available blue-prints.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Richard Ballard on June 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
As a newspaperwoman, Jennifer Toth wrote an article describing life in the tunnels beneath New York City. She met "mole people" (tunnel dwellers) while researching the article. After her article appeared on the newspaper's front page Ms. Toth spent a year exploring the tunnels and interviewing tunnel dwellers. This book describes her experiences and is an excellent example of investigative journalism.
As Ms. Toth's contact network grew she met a variety of tunnel dwellers. Examples include J.C., a member of a 200-person tunnel community where the children are held in common (initially he refuses to guide Ms. Toth unless she will "promise to remain underground for a week and to wear my hair in braids." -- she refuses); Sam, an ex-social worker who leads another 200-person tunnel community (no one may leave without his permission); and Blade, a tunnel dweller who first befriends and guides Ms. Toth but ultimately attempts to control and enter her private life.
Life underground is neither romantic nor pretty. Ms. Toth's recollections and interviews illustrate the reality of life underground: chemical dependency, danger, disease, and poverty. Her recollections and interviews also illustrate tunnel dweller's greatest weapons: discomfort and fear. Her book is an excellent description of NYC tunnel life, the suffering of all homeless people, and the societal challenge that the homeless represent.
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