The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
Release date: 2011 / 372 pages
Synopsis (from Amazon.com): Two kids named Wes Moore were born blocks apart within a year of each other. Both grew up fatherless in similar Baltimore neighborhoods and had difficult childhoods; both hung out on street corners with their crews; both ran into trouble with the police. How, then, did one grow up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader, while the other ended up a convicted murderer serving a life sentence? Wes Moore, the author of this fascinating book, sets out to answer this profound question. In alternating narratives that take readers from heart-wrenching losses to moments of surprising redemption, The Other Wes Moore tells the story of a generation of boys trying to find their way in a hostile world.
Review: Sometimes the books I recommend are great reads, but not necessarily great for book club discussion. Happily, The Other Wes Moore is both.
I saw the author on Oprah and was fascinated by the story of two strangers — contemporaries who share the same name, hometown, and single mother upbringing — who’s lives turned out vastly different: one Wes Moore became a Rhodes scholar and spoke at the Democratic convention while the other will spend his life in prison for his involvement in a robbery and killing of a police officer. So, when my husband bought me his book for Christmas I was curious to see if Moore was able to turn what could be simply a coincidence into an engaging book.
Since both Moores are African-American males, raised in a beleagured part of Baltimore without fathers, yet have taken such different paths, I imagined a socio-economic commentary was most likely going to color much of the telling. Fortunately, the author spent a lot of time interviewing and getting to know his counter-part and both men are quite likeable. Moore the author is self-depreciating, humble, and incredibly grateful that his circumstances changed at the right time. He is well aware that this is in part due to serendipity (in the form of a military school) and is grateful of the individuals who never gave up on him and were willing to make sacrifices so that his life was not.
The other Wes Moore has found a sense of peace through embracing Islam in prison, so although his life is tragic in many ways, the ultimate message of this work is more hopeful than critical. The Other Wes Moore was impossible to put down, and when I turned the last page I immediately passed it on to my in-laws (who I was spending the holidays with) and believe it would be a great choice for book clubs, too.