Contributed By Walter Smith Randolph
“I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” Those lines, written by Sir William Ernest Henley, also appear in the afterword of The Other Wes Moore. These lines are partially the premise of this nonfiction book written by Wes Moore, a Rhodes Scholar, war veteran, and White House Fellow.
Moore tells the tale of two Wes Moores. One Moore is himself. The other Moore is a man with the same name, around the same age who lived in the same neighborhood. Moore, the distinguished man and author, became interested in Moore, the prisoner, when they both made news. The author, who was named one of Ebony magazine’s “Top 30 Under 30” in 2007 was featured in local newspapers for being named the first black Rhodes Scholar to come out of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The other Wes Moore made the local television news for his role in the murder of a Baltimore cop. He fled to Philadelphia where he was eventually arrested. One Moore’s face made The Baltimore Sun. The other Moore’s face made “Wanted” posters. The Other Wes Moore is a book about choices and how circumstances influence choices.
Through interviews and vivid storytelling, Moore tells the tale of two lives intertwined because of a similar name. The gruesome parts of the book are page-turners. Some of the chapters are like something out of Law & Order. Moore describes shoot-outs, drug deals and burglaries. The difference between Law & Order and The Other Wes Moore is this is real life. There are consequences to the choices made by these two individuals. One Wes Moore is a bestselling author. The other Wes Moore is serving a life sentence inside a Maryland state penitentiary. But the book doesn’t stop there.
Moore gives details and explains why the men made they decisions they did. He explains the experiences leading up to decisions that ultimately decided these men’s fates. We understand why Wes Moore, the war hero, didn’t fight back when he was called the n-word near the campus of his military school. We also understand why Wes Moore, the murderer, decided to get back into drug dealing after he tried to escape. Moore doesn’t make excuses for the decisions. He just explains them. You may become empathetic but not sympathetic to the stories. Although you can be the captain of his soul, your circumstances can dictate how you steer your ship and how you master your fate.
The Other Wes Moore is a gripping real-life tale of two men whose lives become intertwined. It shows how people who may seem very much alike can be so different. If you’ve ever wondered “what if” about the choices you’ve made, you should definitely pick this one up.
Walter Smith-Randolph is an award-winning journalist who currently reports for the ABC & CBS affiliate in Elmira, New York. The New York City native just got an iPad and is open to book suggestions and fun apps–Angry Birds is getting old. You can follow him on Twitter @WalterReports.
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