106 of 121 people found the following review helpful
A disappointing read,
This review is from: The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates (Hardcover)
As a forensic psychologist, I was quite intrigued by the premise of the book but ultimately disappointed. It is presented as a study in how two boys with such similar backgrounds could have ended up in such different places - one a Rhode Scholar with a promising career in finance, the other convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. The author, Rhode Scholar Wes Moore, makes the argument that his childhood was very similar to that of the other Wes Moore, convicted felon. But from the very first chapter, the vast differences in their upbringing (even genetics) is apparent. It is never hard to understand how their lives ended up so differently - the Rhode Scholar was born into a loving, intact family with 2 college educated parents. Even after the tragic death of his father, his family remains a strong support in his life, with all sorts of relatives offering both financial and emotional support. Contrast that with the other Wes Moore, who is born to a single mother, the second of her children born out of brief, unstable relationships with alcoholic uninvolved fathers. They are worlds apart from the moment of conception but this is not acknowledged or perhaps understood by the author - at one point he acknowledges that having an adult who is invested in your well-being is key to children's healthy development but then doesn't relate this to how different his life was (with the support of an uncle, grandfather and a very strong and involved mother) from the other Wes Moore (whose mother left him unattended from age 8 and whose primary influence was a criminally involved older brother).
In the end, I was left with the impression that this was a vanity project for the author. The sections about his life get longer and longer while the sections about the other Wes Moore get shorter and shorter. In the epilogue, the author devotes several pages to listing his achievements in life - these are never connected to other events or analyzed in any way - it's simply a list of things he has done. An impressive list certainly, but it offers nothing to the book. The book also seems to be the author's attempt to establish "street cred" - he seems almost desperate to make clear that he grew up poor and disadvantaged (even though he and his siblings went to an expensive private school). It comes off as false and self-serving. For example, his claims that they both had brushes with the law as children overlooks the type and severity of those - the author gets a lecture from a cop at age 11 for spray painting a building while the other Wes Moorewas arrested at age 8 for threatening another child with a knife.
If you want to understand why these two men ended up in such different places, it's not difficult at all. There is a fundamental difference between being raised by a single mother because your father died of illness versus because your father has no interest in you and would not recognize you. There is a fundamental difference between mothers who have children at age 16 in the context of a casual relationship and those who wait until after marriage. There is a fundamental difference between a family who rallies around its children, pushes them to succeed and takes action when one of the children is having problems and a single mother who leaves her child alone or in the care of a drug dealing brother who teaches him to fight.
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Initial post: Feb 6, 2011 8:26:22 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 31, 2011 8:03:38 AM PST
The "other" Wes Moore's Mother was not your typical Single Mother. She had some college, whereas I doubt if most ghetto single Mothers have graduated from High School. If she had devoted herself to her Wes, the way the successful Wes Moore's Mother did things would have different for "The Other Wes Moore".
Posted on Dec 31, 2011 7:50:13 AM PST
Kelly V. Williams says:
I couldn't agree more with what you said. I thought the "similarities" were a farce.
Posted on Dec 8, 2012 8:23:05 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 9, 2012 10:06:55 PM PST
RJD, I'm only 2/3 of the way through this book, but the last three sentences of your review have me thinking you've gotten the author's point without recognizing that it is the author's point.
Author Wes Moore does not say prisoner Wes Moore's mother acted like a selfish, self deceiving floozie during the years her sons were growing up. He just describes--respectfully, but plainly--her choices,
and how the consequences of those choices affected her children.
He does not say prisoner Wes Moore's sweet grandmother (his
mother's mother) should have been a tad more judgmental,
regarding her daughter's behavior, when 16 year old Mary got
pregnant the first time. He just tells you Grandma thought it was
most important that her daughter, Mary, acquire an education. And
he lets you conclude that while an education is important, learning to take responsibility for one's own actions might be even more important. Author Wes Moore does not say that a father's accidental death--as opposed to a father's depraved indifference--does not leave a son feeling self contempt, lasting despair or rage. But compare the scene in which author Wes Moore is a child watching his father die to the scene in which prisoner Wes Moore is a teenager viewing his biological father--who does not even recognize him--as the man slumps in a death like drunk on the couch. What do you find yourself thinking ?
This writer knows how to keep a poker face and stay out of the way of the story he's telling. Oddly enough, his approach is somewhat like Erskine Caldwell's, but there is one big difference : Unlike Caldwell, Moore conveys he believes all of us are called to examine our choices, repent wrong doing, and change for the better.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2012 9:09:33 PM PST
Thank you so much. You just made my evening.
Posted on Dec 9, 2012 10:11:32 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 9, 2012 10:23:48 PM PST
Horse Crazy says:
Yea, I can appreciate both arguments. There are some similarities and some significant differences. I believe the author is being respectful and makes an effort to not beat us over the head with the obvious differences. However, if the one mom had been able to continue her schooling with the Pell Grant, things could have turned out much differently. Not many people are accepted by Johns Hopkins as the mom was. I have not finished the book yet. Agree or disagree with the author's premise, it is a very captivating read.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 9, 2012 10:46:44 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 10, 2012 9:11:24 PM PST
Well, things also might have turned out differently if this attractive woman had decided her kids came first, and had "settled" (that's how she might have viewed it) for finding and marrying a decent, even though unexciting, wallflower type of man who was willing and able to love her and step sons. Even with low incomes, married couples are much more able than single parents to provide material and emotional support and guidance for their children. It maybe would have been great for Mary to have been able to attend Johns Hopkins, but Johns Hopkins wouldn't have met her sons' need to have--and believe themselves worth-- a father.
I agree . It's a captivating read.
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 20, 2013 7:33:19 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 20, 2013 7:35:14 AM PDT
Great observation Ansonia!
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