Wes Moore, the Johns Hopkins grad and Rhodes scholar, has received a lot of attention for "The Other Wes Moore." The book compares two lives: his own and that of a Baltimore doppelganger who is imprisoned for life. If you want to hear Moore discuss his book, he'll be at the Enoch Pratt on Tuesday, May 18, at 6:30 p.m. Meanwhile, here's our review.
Synopsis: Moore explores the many factors that influence the direction of our lives. Just like the "other" Wes Moore, the author got into trouble as a kid, and left a prestigious private school that his mother had found to shelter him from the streets of the Bronx. But several influences, including mentors and family support, steadied him. Meanwhile, the "other" Moore was adrift, without meaningful support from parents and teachers. He fell into the spiral of drugs and violence that has claimed so many kids in this city.
Review: Give Moore credit for sensitively exploring the issues that separate success and failure -- or survival and death -- in cities such as Baltimore. He does it without being preachy or over-dramatic. And he's honest enough to admit that there is no clear answer -- a life's path is often set by the unmeasurable depth of an individual's strength -- or by dumb luck. (I did wonder whether he pulled some punches about his own life, and was overly guarded about other conflicts he faced.) But he notes that the difference between good and bad can start as a razor-thin margin, growing wider and wider through the years. He's also serious about changing lives -- the book includes a lengthy list of organizations working to help kids and improve cities.
Read this if: You like a compelling story about the challenges of America's cities -- and a very personal look at the way a life can disintegrate.
Avoid this if: You're annoyed by fact-checking mistakes, such as the one that put Perry Hall High in West Baltimore, or that claimed Baltimore was the birthplace of Edgar Allan Poe. (Just remember, the author didn't grow up here.)