I’ve passed this book several times in the Bookshop, but not until shelving summer reading books for the local schools, did I pick it up. I’m glad I did.
The Other Wes Moore chronicles the life of two boys both named Wes Moore, born just blocks from each other in a tough Baltimore neighborhood. Each grows up without a father and finds himself surrounded by violence and in frequent trouble, but that’s where the similarity ends. One grows up to become a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow and successful business leader, while the other ends up serving a life sentence for murder. So, what happened?
Trying to figure out why some people overcome great obstacles to do great things, while others don’t or cannot, has fascinated me for some time. Apparently, it fascinates the two Wes Moores, as well.
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The coincidence in name causes the author to contact the other Wes, after hearing about his life sentence for killing a police officer. The two then establish a rapport. The book is the result of many prison visits and interviews with Wes and significant people in his life, in search of the reason why the two Wes Moores arrived at such different stations in life. The author’s poignant line, “The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is my story could have been his”, seems to capture the essence of this book. Is there a defining factor that propelled two young men of similar backgrounds in such radically different directions? I will leave that for the reader to decide
My criticism of the book is that it is too short. I hoped to get to know both men better. Alone, each has a fascinating memoir, together additional time and space are needed to paint a more complete picture. Still, The Other Wes Moore is worth checking out, even if it’s not on your required reading list.