Title: The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates
Author: Wes Moore
Hours: 6 Hours, 12 minutes / Pages: 256
Publisher: Audio: Random House Audio / Print: Spiegel & Grau
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5
Wes Moore is a White House fellow and a Rhodes scholar who grew up on the tough streets of the Bronx. He escaped the systematic cycles of violence and drugs, but many others he grew up with did not. In this memoir, Wes discusses his own life, but also that of another Wes Moore: a young man who shares his name, who had a very similar upbringing and atmosphere to his own, but is serving consecutive life sentences in prison. What was the difference between these two young men? Why did they end up in their respective places?
The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates is a fascinating memoir about the power of circumstance and choice, and how the smallest opportunities and forces can make a difference. The two Wes Moores grew up in similar surroundings. Drugs were everywhere, and it was a lot easier to make a quick buck by working for the dealers than to attend school. Both Wes Moores had their dabblings with this, but this Wes Moore (sorry, this could get confusing fast) broke out of the cycle. Why? How? This is the question Wes is trying to answer, and the reader tries to answer over the course of the book.
Wes tells both stories well, though priority is given to his own in The Other Wes Moore (after all, it is a memoir). It’s really fascinating to listen to him trace the parallels in both the lives, but also what set Wes apart. Wes had a lot of positive influences in his life, namely his mother, who was willing to sacrifice anything and everything for him. He’s honest about how little he appreciated her sacrifices until he grew older, but also how much her perseverance and belief in him helped. He had mentors and people to look up to, even when he didn’t want them, and role models of what he could become; the other Wes lacked many of these guiding forces. No matter how much the other Wes’s mother loved him and wanted a straight path for her son, he couldn’t escape the drugs/violence cycle.
I listened to The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates on audio, and it’s narrated by the author. It’s a quick listen; Moore does a good job, though he can be stilted at times. Still, I liked hearing his story from his own lips because of the passion he put into his performance. You can tell how much this means to him.
All in all, The Other Wes Moore was really a fascinating read. It’s not a self-help book; it doesn’t provide a formula for how an inner-city kid can become a Rhodes scholar. No, instead, it’s about the role of chance and circumstance, how the most whimsical and random things can determine our fates. The tagline of the book is: “The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his,” and Moore makes that point over and over again. It’s really well done, and I definitely recommend this eye-opening read.