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House of Good Hope: A Promise for a Broken City (River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize) Paperback – April 1, 2007

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Combining a reporter's eye for detail, the breathless narrative rush of an action movie and the generous heart of a hometown boy desperately trying to make sense of a place gone terribly wrong, Downs examines the social and economic disintegration of Hartford, Conn., in the 1990s through the coming-of-age of five African-American teenage boys. These young men—track stars, football players, scholars—try to make the right decisions while local and state politicians squabble over money, drug gangs roam the streets and the middle class—both white and black—flees to the suburbs. Harvey, Derrick, Eric, Hiram and Joshua make a pledge that no matter their future path, they will return to Hartford to rebuild their shattered city. The first half of the book flows with the power and grace of a finely tuned magazine article. Then Downs loses his focus and gets bogged down in a lengthy recounting of the boys' track coach's trial. The narrative shifts from the boys—now young men with growing families and burgeoning careers—to Downs's own struggle with his identity and the declining health of his grandfather. If the narrative splinters, perhaps it is an apt metaphor for the boys' pledge. Just one—Joshua—returned to Hartford. (Apr.)
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Review

“Combining a reporter’s eye for detail, the breathless narrative rush of an action movie and the generous heart of a hometown boy desperately trying to make sense of a place gone terribly wrong, Downs examines the social and economic disintegration of Hartford, Conn., in the 1990s through the coming-of-age of five African-American teenage boys. . . . The first half of the book flows with the power and grace of a finely tuned magazine article.”—Publishers Weekly
(Publishers Weekly)

“Amid the broken glass that glitters on abandoned lots, amid the sense of abandonment and hopelessness, there beats the heart of an ancient city that refuses to die. And we’re still here. At its heart, House of Good Hope: A Promise for a Broken City is a lavish love letter to Connecticut’s capital city.”—Susan Campbell, Hartford Courant
(Hartford Courant)

House of Good Hope is just a beautiful book, filled with the poignant bittersweet of hope and loss. Michael Downs writes about friendship. He writes about the promises we try to keep. He writes about poverty and despair. The subjects are agonizing, but they shine with the poetic clarity of Downs’s prose.”—Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights and A Prayer for the City
(Buzz Bissinger 2006-09-05)

“With poignant story-telling, descriptive prose, and compelling neighborhood characters, Michael Downs captures the heartbeat of Connecticut's multi-cultural and poverty-riddled capital city. Downs is obviously a guy who loves his hometown—warts and all—and is enamored of its past, its shortcomings, and its potential.”—Stan Simpson, columnist for the Hartford Courant and radio talk show host for WTIC NewsTalk
(Stan Simpson 2006-09-05)

“A huge story hiding in plain sight, House of Good Hope recounts Hartford’s losses with a clear-eyed intimacy. Through the lives of five inner-city kids striving to be responsible men, Michael Downs asks what allegiance America owes its failing cities and what we all, as individuals, owe the places we call home.”—Stewart O’Nan, author of Everyday People
(Stewart O'Nan 2006-07-24)
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Product Details

  • Series: River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize
  • Paperback: 326 pages
  • Publisher: Bison Books (April 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803260121
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803260122
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,254,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
An incredible fabric of stories -- about place, duty, love, east, west, race, and society. Downs masterfully brings it all together for this book about five inner-city kids from Hartford, and about his own struggle to find a place that really feels like home.
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Format: Paperback
Makes a person think about education, urban planning and the cost of suberbia.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a fascinating look at struggling cities and the people, especially youth, who call cities like this, home. The author kept me turning the pages. A work of non-fiction well worth reading. I've recommended it to my students - many who live in Hartford. You will not be disappointed.
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Format: Paperback
Michael Downs has done a wonderful job of weaving in his personal life with a story of hopes and dreams--some realized and some not. At times, his prose is poetic. The story of the virtual collapse of huge chunks of Hartford is a story that has played out in major cities across America. This story, extremely well-documented and reported, is uniquely and poignantly told.
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