Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

Wes Moore was born in Maryland in 1978 but currently works for Citigroup in New York City. His life path was  pretty interesting.  At three, he saw his father die in front of him after his father was misdiagnosed at a local area hospital.  His mother moved the family around a bit and sent her son to a private school. While there, he failed out because of behavioral issues and non-attendance, even though his two sisters did fairly well.  He was then sent to a military academy in Pennsylvania, where he graduated with honors and as a regimental commander, even though he attempted to run away four times in his first week there.  Wes eventually went on to college and became a Rhodes Scholar.

As Wes was preparing to attend Oxford University in 2000, Wes learned of another man named Wes Moore who also, coincidentally, grew up in Maryland.  In fact, the two had lived in the same neighborhood, and the "other" Wes Moore was two years older. The two had never met. The "other" Wes Moore was starting a life prison bid after being convicted of murdering an off duty police officer during the course of a bank robbery. So the Wes on the outside of the prison wrote a letter to the Wes Moore that was behind the bars.  Wes Moore, the author, had burning questions that he wanted answers - how did two men with the same name from the same neighborhood with similar backgrounds end up on such markedly different paths in their lives?

This book is told in alternating sections, which I guess is effective in detailing the differences between the two men.  However, there is no passion - it's simply a re-telling.  The author talks about the works of Malcolm X and how he was inspired by him as well as Colin Powell. However, none of the passion that those men wrote with or even an ounce of their skill is apparent in Mr. Moore's literary capabilities. I think that the real value in this book is the question that was asked and the questions that remain unanswered - how do two people from similar backgrounds end up taking such different paths?  What social forces are in play to make people choose to do one thing over another? What happens when the village cannot raise the child because it isn't equipped to do so?

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