Book: The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Publication date: 2010
Source: Purchased the paperback after reading a library hardcover edition last fall.
Summary: In The Other Wes Moore, Wes Moore writes about the coincidence of sharing the same name with a man who has a similar disadvantaged background. The other Wes Moore is serving a prison sentence for life while the author was a Rhodes Scholar and has developed a successful military, government, and business career. Wes Moore writes (on page xi):
The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his.
The Other Wes Moore explores how these two boys started in similar places and grew up to be men in such different ones.
Thoughts: This was our book club selection last night (I wrote about the unique circumstances and make up of our book club in the post Book Review: The Warmth of Other Suns). In fact, this was my book club selection and the discussion that I led this year. That’s the sort of thing I can get nervous about. Fortunately, our book club is hardly scary at all and very tolerant of initial awkwardness. We somehow always manage to have a revealing and thought-provoking conversation. Last night was no exception.
Like the other memoir we read this year (Book Review: The Black Girl Next Door by Jennifer Baszile), Wes Moore is younger than any of our active members so we were able to relate to the events of his life through our own experiences and those of the next generation, our children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews. But also, more than when we discussed the Baszile book, we discussed our parents and grandparents and their influence. The stories in The Other Wes Moore and the questions it raises invite examination about environment and family and how they shape our lives.
Much of our conversation circled back to a conclusion that Wes Moore included in the afterword to the paperback edition after describing some of his readers’ thoughts about what made the difference in the two Wes Moore’s lives:
…what all these responses have in common is that they point to the decisive power of information and stories — the kind provided and modeled by friends, family, mentors, or even books — which has only reinforced my initial decision to write this story in the first place.
Appeal: This is a book for our times. Our book club agreed it was a quick read. For all that some of the issues that arise seem intractable (we had many moments of sadness last night about lost young lives), there is also a lot of hope underlying this book. A kind smile, a shared story or tidbit of information, or simply modeling a well-lived life may make the difference in someone else’s life, a difference that profoundly effects the outcome.
Challenges: While not exactly a memoir, this is pretty close so I’m going to call it that for the purpose of the Memorable Memoirs Challenge. The subtitle has two numbers, so that gets another book checked off the What’s in A Name Challenge. And, I bought this copy so I can use it for the Buy One Book and Read It Challenge. One book, three challenges!
Reviews: The Berwyn Public Library also discussed this book in a book club and the librarian wrote extensive notes: BPL Book Discussion: The Other Wes Moore. An item that came up in their discussion and ours was that our society could benefit from a greater emphasis on parenting skills — I happened to get something in my email about that just this morning that might be of interest: More Americans Should Go To Parenting Classes Instead of College. That’s an article by Keli Goff, an impressive young woman I met in New York. I’ve pre-ordered a copy of her upcoming novel GQ Candidate and will be proposing her book Party Crashing: How the Hip Hop Generation Declared Political Independence for our book club’s 2011-2012 reading list.
Have you read The Other Wes Moore? What did you think?