Two kids with the same name lived in the same decaying city. One went on to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader. The other is serving a life sentence in prison. Here is the story of two boys and the journey of a generation.
In December 2000, the Baltimore Sunran a small piece about Wes Moore, a local student who had just received a Rhodes Scholarship. The same paper also ran a series of articles about four young men who had allegedly killed a police officer in a spectacularly botched armed robbery. The police were still hunting for two of the suspects who had gone on the lam, a pair of brothers. One was named Wes Moore.
Wes just couldn’t shake off the unsettling coincidence, or the inkling that the two shared much more than space in the same newspaper. After following the story of the robbery, the manhunt, and the trial to its conclusion, he wrote a letter to the other Wes, now a convicted murderer serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. His letter tentatively asked the questions that had been haunting him: Who are you? How did this happen?
That letter led to a correspondence and relationship that have lasted for several years. Over dozens of letters and prison visits, Wes discovered that the other Wes had had a life not unlike his own: Both had grown up in similar neighborhoods and had had difficult childhoods, both were fatherless; they’d hung out on similar corners with similar crews, and both had run into trouble with the police. At each stage of their young lives they had come across similar moments of decision, yet their choices would lead them to astonishingly different destinies.
Told in alternating dramatic 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.
Another book I had to read for a class this past semester! The Other Wes Moore is quite the intriguing read, and it brings quite a few important questions to the table. I’m actually going to talk about one of my personal theories in this review.
Why did one Wes Moore go to college while the Other Wes Moore went to jail?
I think that Wes Moore went to college because his mother had support. Wes Moore was determined to get into trouble when he was in Brooklyn, but his mother had the support of her parents while raising her child. When she saw what Brooklyn was turning her son into, she pooled together money from all different members of the family, and sent him to military school. The Other Wes Moore’s mother did not have this support. She had lost her mother, her father was a drunk, Wes’ father was a drunk, and Tony’s father was only interested in supporting his own son. She couldn’t send him off to any sort of military school, and she couldn’t afford to move out of her neighborhood. So she decided to just cope and pretend that her son wasn’t doing anything wrong, and pretend that she had a happy family. If she had the support of her mother, she probably would have been able to do something more for the Other Wes. But she didn’t
Now onto my thoughts on the book as a whole. I think that this book is flawed.
Why is one Wes introduced as Wes Moore, and the “Other Wes Moore” is the other Wes Moore? They both have the same name, but they are introduced as if one is the main character and one is a side character.
This book is all told from the point of view of the author, Wes Moore. The “other” Wes Moore is in jail, and so his story is based on what he told Wes Moore/what Wes Moore decided to include. How can I trust anything told from the other Wes Moore’s point of view if he isn’t the one writing it? They don’t even have a scene about what other Wes did to get in jail, because he insists that he wasn’t at the scene of the crime, and Wes Moore insists that he was. I don’t really care what other Wes says he was doing, it would have been interesting to at least hear what he had to say. Even if the evidence says he was there, what is going through his head right now as he is serving jail time?
What other portions of other Wes’ life were doctored if he wasn’t able to write his own story. I understand that his grammar might not be the best if he didn’t finish school, but other books have written characters with poor grammar to be more “realistic,” so why couldn’t he tell his own side of the story? What if Wes Moore cut out parts of the story that he thought would be too “inappropriate” or that he thought were unnecessary?
Overall, even though this book had good intentions, it just didn’t add up in the end. I don’t know how much information I can trust on Wes Moore’s part as he tries to tell the story of someone who is alive and could have told their own story, even from jail. The two boys were in completely different financial situations, with mothers having completely different levels of support, even if the book tries to say that they were both fatherless. And in the end, even if the Wes Moore’s met and were supposed to be seen as on the same level throughout the book, Wes Moore’s dismissive thoughts when other Wes said he wasn’t at the scene of the crime makes me wonder. Was the other Wes Moore as much of a “villain” as the book painted him to be at times, or would the story have been different if Wes had actually told it himself?
Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 books