Michael Leone’ Book Review

other wes

Too Good For its Own Good

Michael Leone

One transformed into a Rhodes scholar, the other, into a convicted murderer.  In his autobiographical analysis, Wes Moore attempts to answer how.  Bearing the same name as the other Wes Moore, he discovered a multitude of similarities between their lives. But, while he carefully intertwines their parallel stories to discover a universal truth about decision-making, the content of his stories are so intriguing that he often leaves his reader frustrated and wanting more.  But this criticism is not one that can be simply fixed; there is no superfluous text that should be replaced because his language is clear and concise.  He tells it as it happened without a remarkable story telling ability, but the content of the stories are beyond captivating.  How else could he make us fall in love with a drug dealing convicted murderer?

The parallel chapters in this book really help establish the similarities between their parallel lives.  Each character ran into trouble with family, drugs and police at a very young age.  Wes Moore structures his book so that each character deals with similar adverse conditions in consecutive chapters.  Their reactions to the situations must therefore distinguish their futures from the each other.  When Wes Moore spoke to our school he told us “The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine.  The tragedy is that my story could have been his,” it was undoubtedly deep, but it sounded too much like a slogan of movie.  However, after reading the book, I realized how profound this statement truly was.  He never directly states or proves this, but conveys it throughout the structure of the entire book.  At one point, when the other Wes Moore checked himself into rehab it seemed as if everything is going right.  For the first time in his life, a happy ending seemed possible.  He finally found a passion: a job he could actually pursue.  But, a few pages later, he disappointed the reader by reverting to baking drugs with no explication.  This could not have been more crushing, especially after considering how the author Wes Moore was able to turn his life around in the previous chapter.

Wes Moore does an excellent job telling these stories; he includes all necessary information and omits the unnecessary.  When I met him, it was clear that he knew a lot more about the subject than he included in his book and that he had many more stories.  And as a reader, I think his conscious withholding worked very nicely to his advantage.  Although I felt indignant when he would suddenly end a story because I was so eager to learn what happened, his doing this demonstrated his mastery of pathos.  Even though the outcome of the book is never kept a secret, he is still able to trigger such strong reactions through the crafting of the book.  The layering of the two stories makes the success stories seem much more improbable, and therefore sweeter, and subsequent failures even more devastating.

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