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The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates

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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 Sun ran 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.

233 pages, Hardcover

First published April 27, 2010

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About the author

Wes Moore

7 books428 followers
Westley Watende Omari Moore (born October 15, 1978) is an American politician, investment banker, author, television producer, and nonprofit executive serving as the 63rd governor of Maryland since 2023. A member of the Democratic Party, he is the first Black governor of the state, the third Black person elected as governor of any U.S. state, and as of 2023, the only incumbent black governor of any U.S. state.

Born in Maryland and raised largely in New York, Moore graduated from Johns Hopkins University and received a master's degree from Wolfson College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. After several years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserve, Moore became an investment banker in New York. Between 2010 and 2015, Moore published five books, including a young adult novel.
--wikipedia.org

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,290 reviews
Profile Image for jv poore.
606 reviews196 followers
February 1, 2022
I received this as a thank-you gift from a student. It was my pleasure & privilege to visit her senior English class every month to talk about books! I'm thinking about you, Chyna.

It seems so simple to become somewhat self-absorbed (or perhaps that's just me) that I can not help but marvel at those curious creatures that grasp an almost random thought and entirely think it through.

Mr. Moore did that very thing, then generously shared the parallel stories in the most thought-provoking and empathy evoking, inspiring way possible.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,079 reviews2,607 followers
June 22, 2015
This book was disappointing. It's based on a flawed premise that the story of two guys with the same name in the same city is inherently interesting.

But I thought this book was mundane and undiscerning. It never answered the question it asked, namely: Why did one of the guys named Wes end up in prison, and the other Wes end up with a college degree and a successful career?

The author writes about his tough childhood, and eventually his family sent him to military school to straighten up. The experience changed his life, giving him discipline, confidence, and respect. He later graduated from Johns Hopkins University, became a Rhodes scholar, and served in Afghanistan.

In short, the author has an inspiring story and is a positive role model for troubled youth.

But where the book doesn't work is when the author interviews the "other Wes Moore," the one in prison for an armed robbery in Baltimore that killed a police officer. The other Wes also had a tough childhood, and got caught up in a drug-dealing gang. The story skips around in time, hitting different low points for the other Wes. A significant problem is that Imprisoned Wes is not reflective and his terse quotes don't elucidate the narrative. At one point he claims he's innocent of the robbery charges, but no alternative explanation is given.

I became very frustrated by this muddled book and almost abandoned it. I think this is another one of those stories that would have made a better magazine article, instead of being padded out to book length.

I am sure that author Wes Moore will have a successful career as a public speaker, and more power to him. But his book was just OK.

Inspiring Quote
"When we're young, it sometimes seems as if the world doesn't exist outside our city, our block, our house, our room. We make decisions based on what we see in that limited world and follow the only models available. The most important thing that happened to me was not being physically transported — the moves from Baltimore to the Bronx to Valley Forge didn't change my way of thinking. What changed was that I found myself surrounded by people ... who kept pushing me to see more than what was directly in front of me, to see the boundless possibilities of the wider world and the unexplored possibilities within myself. People who taught me that no accident of birth — not being black or relatively poor, being from Baltimore or the Bronx or fatherless — would ever define or limit me."
7 reviews1 follower
October 30, 2011
The premise that these two men shared similar upbringings is barely tenable. I don't doubt that Mr. Moore's intentions were sincere, but beyond their mutual name, these men had very different mothers, fathers, family support systems, educational opportunities and friends. The similarities, by contrast, were far less impactive: a shared name and age, and brief stints living in Baltimore city proper. Furthermore, the commonality that they were both young African American men is much more complicated than Mr. Moore bothers to explore. Coming from a family of Caribbean immigrants that achieved Bachelors degrees within one generation (both of the author's parents were first generation Americans that graduated from American University) is NOT EVEN CLOSE to the same as coming from from an African American family where the one present parent dropped out of college.

As I said before, I do not doubt that the author's exploration of the two lives was sincere (if a little self indulgent). However, his effort to make a meaningful contribution is questionable. If he was in fact writing this book to help parents and young adults make better choices, one would think he would at least MINIMALLY acquaint himself with the considerable universe of academic research on educational attainment in low income minority groups. He did not, and his shallow reflections and easily drawn conclusions are a result. The one contribution the book made was the inclusion of a list of organizations that provide services to urban youth across the US. (This unfortunately came after a somewhat douche-y recount of all of the author's accomplishments and most exciting life moments, but it's a contribution nonetheless.)

Bottom line: The book will likely disappoint or underwhelm those with a background in urban education.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,686 reviews14k followers
January 28, 2020
Two young men of color, same name, different fates. This book really makes one think about the divisions one makes throughout their lives. What goes into these decisions, what effects the outcome. Lack of opportunity, pressure to make money, a mother that is overwhelmed, wanting to fit in, young prenthood, so many red flags. How to break the cycle without the means to do so. Even when given a second chance, outside pressure often dooms the person before he can take full advantage.

So, what is the answer? Sociological problems so very difficult to solve. One thing really bothered me. It is stated in this book that the governors of various states base the number of future beds needed in a penitentiary on reading scores. By third grade of all things. If a person is not reading at their school level they are considered high risk. So, by third grade it has already been decided that this isthrowaway kid. Why not try to help? Surely as a society, a nation we can do better?

The audio is narrates by the author and his narration i give 4 stars
Profile Image for Chris.
212 reviews44 followers
February 10, 2017
I heard about this when it came out a couple years ago and was intrigued, and then the College of Education I work and go to graduate school in chose it for its "common read," so I read it. It would absolutely be a good discussion starter in undergraduate classes. (Although unfortunately for my College of Education, the "successful Wes Moore" ultimately gets on the right path when his mom enrolls him in a private military school, so it doesn't provide any intel on how public schools can engage at-risk youth.) My main gripe with it--that it's 99% descriptive, with very little attempt to explain or explore why the lives of these two boys with the same name turned out so differently--could inspire assignments where students would look into some of the sociology and education research that tries to explain life outcomes, risk/protective factors, etc. and see whether those theories hold for the Wes Moores. But with just my reader hat on, not my teacher hat, it was unsatisfying. I expected more thought/analysis/interpretation/rumination from a Rhodes scholar. We all know that some kids succeed and some don't--what can the experiences of these two men teach us about how to help more of them succeed?
Profile Image for Brina.
873 reviews4 followers
January 22, 2020
I used to think I had a unique name. In school I was the only one with my name, so, by default, teachers and acquaintances used to think that it was a typo for something else. This lead to some embarrassing moments but I have lived to tell the tale. Wes Moore of Baltimore, Maryland does not have a unique first or last name. While Westley is not all that common, Moore is a surname found throughout the United States, so by the law of averages a name has to recur eventually. When he was about to return from a study abroad program, Wes Moore’s mother let him know that a man with his same name had run afoul from the law and was on trial for murder. This lead to Moore thinking that this other Wes came from a similar upbringing as him but the two of them have lead starkly different lives. Had it been because of upbringing, opportunity, or a combination? The question lead Wes Moore, the author, to research both of their families, which eventually lead to this enlightening book.

Wes Moore notes that the biggest difference in the two Wes’ lives is that his father was not there because he physically couldn’t be whereas the other Wes’ father chose not to be. Baltimore has one of the lowest high school graduation rates and highest murder rates in the nation. Wes surmises that this is partially because many African American males do not have fathers or other father figures in their lives. Wes’ father Westley was a journalist and both he and his wife Joy were college educated, yet when he tragically passed away when Wes was only three years old, Joy’s life began to crumble. Here in lied the difference between the two Wes’ lives. Joy was determined that her three children would not fall through the cracks and moved in with her parents in the Bronx, enrolling Wes and his younger sister Shani in Riverdale Academy. Even the upscale surroundings could not keep Wes away from the hip hop, street basketball, and drug culture that permeated Bronx streets during the 1990s. Joy intervened even more to keep her only son off of the streets and sent Wes to Valley Forge Military Academy from the time he was twelve years old. Although Wes resented this decision at the time, military school would save him from a life on the street.

The other Wes was not as fortunate. His mother Mary worked two jobs to provide for him and his older brother Tony but by doing so was not around much. Tony and Wes had different fathers, and both either lived in the projects, were unemployed, were strung out on drugs, or a combination of the above. With Mary working and fathers out of the picture, Tony essentially raised Wes. The example that Tony set was a life of cutting school, which lead to drug usage and eventually dealing. Mary believed that Wes, a former football star, could do better, but with no positive male examples to learn from, life on the West Baltimore streets was all he saw, resulting in few aspirations to better his life. As a result, Wes lead a life of teenage parenthood, arrests, being in and out of juvenile detention, and eventually a life prison sentence. Wes, the author, believed that his own life could have turned out like the other Wes’ had his mother not chosen to intervene early on in her widowhood. Had she chosen to remain in Baltimore, perhaps she would have lost her son to the streets as well. After reading about the author’s life, the idea of this would have been harrowing.

Wes built the foundation of this book by interviewing family and friends of both himself and the other Wes over a seven year period. This involved him visiting Wes in prison and contemplating the similarities and differences in their lives. The other Wes noted that Wes asked him many questions of his lives but failed to share anything about himself, which eventually lead to changing their relationship from a forced one to one of almost friendship. Prior to his arrest, the other Wes did try to reform, completing his GED and receiving a certification to work as a carpenter; he appeared to be turning his life around and may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, a case of mistaken identity that still occurs at crime scenes. Whether or not the other Wes participated in the crime he was convicted for, we will never know; however, according to the author, he has shown remorse. Meanwhile, Wes used his experiences at Valley Forge to lead to a life of political involvement and social action around the world. He believes that having role models and mentors at Valley Forge and at all stops in his education and employment made a world of difference, separating him from other African American males his age who became statistics of the street, people like the other Wes.

Wes Moore has gone from an almost street statistic to a Johns Hopkins graduate, Rhodes scholar, world traveler, Afghanistan war veteran, and successful businessman and author. He has met a who’s who in American life and can trace his success back to having family members who cared about him. The one conversation with his mother about another Wes Moore being convicted for attempted murder changed Wes’ life. He added author to his list of accolades and also could say that he is strongly involved in his community. In order to prevent more kids from becoming like the other Wes, he believes in mentorship and community involvement. In the afterward, he notes that this awareness could make a difference in the next generation of youths. By having more socially conscious individuals like Wes Moore, even ones who share names with convicted felons, it might be safe to say that this generation of youths is in better hands than the one before it. What an astounding, enlightening person to read about.

4 stars
Profile Image for Ken.
Author 3 books885 followers
May 30, 2010
Two Wes Moores diverged in a yellow wood (called Baltimore)
And sorry he could not travel both
And be one traveler, long Wes Moore the Rhodes Scholar stood
And looked down one as far as he could
By interviewing the other Wes Moore in Jessup Correctional Institution
Where the path disappears in the undergrowth
Of drug-dealing, robbery, and accomplice to murder.

Wes took the other, as just as fair,
Through military school, time in Afghanistan, and ultimately the business world,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for the passing there, he realized that many young black men
Had worn them really about the same.

And both stories in this book equally lay
Like a newspaper feature collected and printed as a book,
Thank God Wes the Author saved the first for no other day!
Now knowing, after talking to the other Wes over many weeks,
How way leads to sad way
Until he doubted whether his life was just luck
And wondered how he might save others from the clutches of the inner city
With this book of hope and homilies on choices.

You shall be reading this if cautionary tales are your thing
Somewhere, somehow in future days
Two Wes Moores diverged in a yellow wood (called Baltimore), and Wes –
He took the one less traveled by,
And that has made him an author
Of dichotomies, decisions, fate, and cruel fortune, which together
Have made all the difference.
Profile Image for Tracy Miller.
985 reviews38 followers
May 9, 2010
Disclaimer: I have met the author Wes Moore. He was a student worker in the Career Center when I worked at Johns Hopkins. I didn't know him well, but did interact with him. Even then, it was apparent that he was a pretty extraordinary person. I was excited to read this book because I felt like I "knew" the characters and setting a bit.

I think my knowledge of the author colored my ability to see this book as a comparison of two boys with the "there but for the grace of God..." ideal that the description implies. Could the author Wes Moore have become the criminal Wes Moore? Perhaps. We all make foolish choices in life, and those choices made in the context of the environment that Wes was in, could have been tragic. But could the criminal Wes Moore have become the author? That seems to me to be more unlikely, because author Wes has a gift of charisma that draws people to him. Whether it resulted from his life experience or was a factor in his gaining that life experience is a chicken-or-egg question, but it is rare and probably not a fair comparison for another person.

Regardless of the strain of the comparison, the book definitely makes it clear that there were factors that existed in the author's life that didn't in the criminal's. One was the presence of an educated mother, and, in the author's case, one that was willing to do whatever it took to make sure her son went down the right path. The author's mother also had competent family support, something that the criminal's mother sadly lacked. Although both boys grew up fatherless, the circumstances of that fatherlessness were vastly different. It must have a different impact psychologically to know that you had a father that would have been there for you had he not tragically died, than to know that you have a living father that doesn't give a crap about you.

I guess where I'm left is wondering what to do with this information. Yes, we know that having a strong support network makes success possible for kids, regardless of the economics of their birth. I'm left wondering how we give them that network. Can someone else make up for the lack of a strong family base? If so, how?
Profile Image for Karl Jorgenson.
514 reviews25 followers
December 25, 2020
Two young men growing up in Baltimore have similar circumstances: poverty, loss of their father, access to gangs and drugs. Coincidentally, they share a name. One serves in the military and goes on to success; the other goes to prison.
The reason to read the book seemed to be a chance to see where bad Wes went wrong or good Wes went right. It turns out to be more simple and less certain than one would hope: good Wes had mentors who kept steering him to productive society, bad Wes had mainly his brother, who tried to steer bad Wes but undercut the advice by making money and prestige dealing drugs.
The book is interesting for its authentic view of young black men growing up in poverty. For me, it confirms the statistical theory that every dollar spent on youth programs saves ten dollars in police, prisons, and other societal costs. If there had been enough of a diversion program to steer bad Wes and his brother, they both could have been saved. Instead, taxpayers will spend millions to keep them in prison, not to mention the destruction of their lives and their victims.
Profile Image for Christy.
620 reviews
December 5, 2019
This book was cool... something new, different, and such an intriguing concept! I've really been into nonfiction lately, and this one was no exception. The men in this book are named Wes Moore and Wes Moore. Two kids with the same name, similar ages, and living in the same city. Both had difficult childhoods, missing fathers, police run ins, similar types of friends, etc, etc. The author has ended up with a successful life - Rhodes Scholar and Veteran. The other Wes Moore is living the rest of his life behind bars. The author writes to the other Wes, unable to get over the similarities in their glaringly different lives.

This book highlights how your choices and actions can dramatically change your life and future. The only negative I found with this book is that I wished it would have included a lot more of the conversations that Wes and Wes had during the prison visitations. It spent much of the book in the past, but I would have loved to learn more about the present.
2 reviews2 followers
September 8, 2011
Initially I wasn’t too sure about reading this book because of what it seemed to be advertising. From the moment I picked it up at the library and read the summary, Wes Moore struck me as one of the folks who particularly enjoys telling others of his success and makes it a point to demonstrate how another man by the same name is a failure. Although I do respect him for his accomplishments and look up to how he escaped the Baltimore projects, it was hard to imagine an author being very philosophical when comparing himself to another. As I progressed through the book, I realized that Wes had a very profound way of looking at the different situations that both he and the “other” Wes Moore were in. Posing questions that ponder the sole moment or decisions that made their lives different is nearly impossible. Which is why, as Wes realizes, there is no single moment or answer but a collection of moments, memories, decisions and people that have all equally affected both Wes’s lives. This lack of a single answer is very interesting to me but makes me wonder if there really is any connection between the two besides their names and fatherless childhoods. I find it a little far-fetched to compare two different people at such a personal level because after all, no one person is the same as the next. The idea of the book is great and I feel as if I am looking at the same person in an alternate dimension, but in reality these are just two different men who made different decisions and ended up in different positions.


Profile Image for Jason Arias.
Author 3 books26 followers
April 27, 2017
This thought provoking book, about two young men from similar backgrounds ultimately branching in two totally different directions, is a stark reminder that the shirking of personal accountability has historically been the downfall of many passionate men and women destined for greatness, yet shackled to self destruction. Moore writes with a delicate balance that makes the story human without distorting the facts with romanticism. By paralleling the lives of Moore (the author) and Moore (the prisoner serving a life sentence), the reader is able to come to their own conclusions as to why each life took the turns it did.

The beauty of this book is that it isn't a call to arms against some external unfairness, some ominous portrayal of The Man, but rather a reminder that anything is possible if you do not succumb to the environment you are in, anything achievable if you believe in the person you were meant to be, and anything surmountable in the face of adversity. It's time for each of us to take accountability for our shortcomings, get back up on that horse, and take back the reins of our dignity.



I'm a great believer in luck, and I find that the harder I work, the more of it I have.-
Thomas Jefferson
Profile Image for Howard.
1,067 reviews63 followers
March 15, 2020
3 Stars for The Other Wes Moore (audiobook) by Wes Moore and Tavis Smiley read by Wes Moore. The author seemed to have trouble explaining the point to this story. It’s kind of interesting to see how two young men’s lives could start out so similar and then end up so different. But I was most fascinated by the achievements of the author. His story is really inspirational. There just wasn’t enough of it.
Profile Image for Moonkiszt.
1,925 reviews205 followers
August 21, 2019
Yes, Sir!! This book is a great way to spend time - considering on the consequences of choices we make all throughout our days, every day as the choser, and as the influencer of choices. We operate in so many different roles - leader, follower, parent, child, teacher, student, stranger, neighbor, hero, villan, friend, enemy, advocate, persecutor. . . .choices and roles interchange and tangle up within each of us every single day. Who are we going to be in this minute, in this class, in this day at work, in this neighborhood exchange?

So often we want to own our results, get what we deserve, show off our chops. But so many times, the awards we hold high, supposedly earned by our own sweat came to us from the sweat of shoulders 4 or 5 generations before us. . .who put us in a position of success. And some have put us in a position that is anything but success. And could it be that while putting my girl in a position of success I make sure others do not have the opportunity of gaining that prize so easily, or at all? It's all a very deep and profound think to think.

Meanwhile there's the individual's fight, opportunities and choices to consider - all by themselves, all on their own. I appreciate both Wes Moores allowing us the opportunity to see and hear their thoughts on this. It is interesting and meaningful.

I have noted some particularly relevant quotes from the book. Truly, it's worth your time.
Profile Image for C.
171 reviews8 followers
April 12, 2010
This review is based on a set of advance proofs which I won in a Goodreads Giveaway.


The Other Wes Moore is a fascinating look at the lives of two men, both named Wes Moore, both from low-income families, both from un-privileged urban backgrounds. One man sits in prison for life, convicted of participation in a robbery and the murder of a police officer, while the other went on to enjoy every success that a young man can enjoy.

The author, the Wes Moore who went on to become a Rhodes Scholar and White House Fellow, does not pretend to be able to explain the vagaries of life, of these two lives. He seeks the answer to "why" as much as the reader does: why did one Wes succeed where the other did not? Why was one Wes able to move out of the decayed neighborhoods of America's cities while the other could or would not?

Wes Moore has written an excellent book. I recommend it for anyone who wants to be confronted with some of the most challenging questions today in the United States - how can we both help and encourage young people to make good choices, to rise about their circumstances? How can we change institutions to make sure that young people, like the other Wes Moore, don't fall through the cracks?
Profile Image for Cflack.
662 reviews5 followers
November 10, 2013
I am reading this book during a very difficult time in the city where I live. This fall, and more specifically the last three weeks, there have been four shootings and three deaths of black males between the ages of 15 and 23. As someone who grew up in this community and has chosen to raise a family here, we as a community are grappling with these senseless deaths. I would not say that Wes Moore is a great writer, but he is an eloquent and impassioned writer on this subject which touches him very personally and deeply. He follows his path and that of the other Wes Moore which end up in very different places. It was a painful book to read, but also an important one, if for no other reasons than to start to grapple with very difficult questions about what we can do as a community to help others among us to find successful paths.
Profile Image for Walter.
130 reviews49 followers
July 10, 2010
Maybe my expectations were too high for this book: I had seen its author on Tavis Smiley's television show and read a couple of (very) positive reviews of it, so I really expected to be blown away by The Other Wes Moore. In a word, I was not. It's an interesting story of two men who share a name and a background who choose very different paths. This is a good beginning; unfortunately, the execution thereafter leaves something to be desired.

The author, the "good" Wes Moore, begins life in a tough Baltimore neighborhood and ends up a Rhodes Scholar, Wall Streeter, White House Fellow, etc. The "bad" one starts in the same place and ends up in prison for life. The point of the book is to examine why these two men ended up taking such wildly divergent paths and, ostensibly, how to encourage more people to emulate the good one.

Except that the parallels in their stories aren't quite as compelling as they may appear initially. For example, the good Wes Moore spends a number of his formative years living in the Bronx, NY, whereas his namesake never leaves Baltimore and its suburbs. Though the good one is shipped off to military school (after his antisocial behavior in a privileged private school), his educational path is decidely better than his namesake's because of his mother's ambition. The other doesn't have this much support or as much "push" from home, although his mother was encouraging of his positive development. Further, the bad Wes Moore has an older brother who in trying to dissuade him from pursuing his own example of a life in the streets ends up encouraging him to do just that, whereas the author has no such close relation or relationship dragging him down.

Still, all of this would be minor were it not for the reality that the author is far more adept at relaying his namesake's historical story than at penetrating the latter's world in the present, especially the part that begins after he is convicted of perpetrating a life-changing crime. The bad Wes Moore never quite comes to life as vividly as does the author, so he is not a particulary compelling figure with whom to compare and contrast. As such, then, this weakens the impact of the book significantly.

This being said, there is an incredibly compelling story of the author's being influenced by a mentor to explore the Rhodes opportunity and then of his travel to South Africa for study during one of his collegiate years. Simply put, this passage near the end of the book comprised for me the most compelling ten pages in it. It is because of this moving section of the book that I recommend that it be read. Simply put, this excerpt is so powerfully and movingly relayed that it makes reading the rest of the book worth it (or, just read these ten pages and be amazed by their profundity and meaning).

(The same could also be said of a section early in the book in which the author describes his father and the influence that he has early in his son's life.)

In summary, then, I liked The Other Wes Moore but was disappointed because I expected to love it after having read about it and seen it previewed on TV. Perhaps if I hadn't had as much exposure to it before reading it I would have a different reaction to it, so I encourage others to keep this in mind as they consider reading it. Wes Moore is an interesting young man whom you cannot help but admire, so his contribution of this book is meaningful. I wish that he had been able to bring his namesake's essence to the fore as powerfully, but I would nonetheless recommend this book to others.
Profile Image for Pam.
371 reviews21 followers
February 25, 2022
The author here discovers he has a doppelgänger, the “other” Wes Moore who grew on the same mean streets, in the same city and in fact only a couple blocks away. The other Wes also was poor, raised by a single mom and struggled in school. After missteps, Wes the author, began to get his life together, went to good schools, became a Rhodes Scholar, a decorated war hero, and apprenticed with Condolezza Rice among other notable things. He is associated with charitable foundations working with inner city youth and of course wrote this book. Certainly success beyond his wildest dreams.

The other Wes Moore ended up sunk by the cycle of drugs, poor choices and eventually a terrible murder. He is now serving a life sentence. Wes the author became intrigued with his story and has done quite a few interviews with him in prison and with his family and friends.

The second Wes has a predictably bad story. He claims not to have been at the crime despite running out of town to avoid arrest along with his brother the shooter. His DNA was found at the scene of the crime. Not only does he not accept responsibility for his life and actions, he feels no remorse for the fact a policeman with a wife and five kids was murdered senselessly.

Is there really a surprise that the two diverged so completely. I don’t think so. The author had a determined family that worked extremely hard to keep him on the straight and narrow. His mom found ways to get him into a good school and when that wasn’t working out sent him to a military academy. His uncle, grandparents and other adults mentored him. He felt responsible for the welfare of his sisters.

The other Wes had an older brother who was a drug dealer from an early age—a bad role model. His dad was never in the picture whereas the author’s dad died young from a medical issue. The author responds to problem solving and is highly motivated.

The dissimilarities add up. Of course many unknowns and luck were no doubt involved. Wes Moore uses his book as a starting point for dialogs and gives speeches to at risk youth and their parents. The research done for the book may have clarified some things for him, but I think a lot of it seems pretty obvious.
Profile Image for Kym Moore.
Author 3 books31 followers
February 15, 2020
~Choices and accountability made at the crossroads of which path to follow~

This book tells the compelling story of the contrast between the lives of two kids named Wes Moore, living in the same city, different neighborhoods, grew up for different reasons in single-parent homes while both did some stupid things that led to getting in trouble with the police. Sometimes rational thought while trying to function in a dysfunctional world is thrown out the window when confronted by circumstances tussling with the will to just survive.

Circumstances surrounding the lives of these two young men led them into taking opposite paths, of which the one could have ended up as the other. Sometimes rational thought is irrational when making decisions based on our personal and environmental circumstances.

All too often, at-risk kids regardless of the neighborhood they live in or the marginalized adults who live in substandard areas are judged negatively no matter what they do. Too often we look down our nose at these individuals and fail to see what potential the least of us embody in light of the opportunity others have been given. "What if?" The journey we take is never ours alone, whether positive or negative. Wisdom lies in knowing when to fight and knowing when to seek peace.

While Wes Moore, the Rhodes Scholar does not take for granted the sacrifices made by his family and the mentorship given when he didn't know he needed it, makes him realize that without this support, he probably would have ended up in the prison system himself. This book reveals the advantages of privilege, preference, and prestige, not to be braggadocious about it, but to reflect on our "route" to live and be grateful for the opportunities we're given.

I applaud and appreciate the research Wes Moore did for this book, because typically with his life experiences he could have written on more savory topics relating to his accolades that would have probably been more acceptable among general readership. It is definitely a reality check.
Profile Image for Therese.
303 reviews10 followers
December 5, 2020
I loved this book, perhaps more so as I listened to the audio version, narrated by the author. The book is based on the true story of two young Black boys, growing up in 1980’s Baltimore under similar circumstances, both with the same name, Wes Moore, and realizing completely different outcomes to their lives. Wes Moore, the author, rises above the fray, graduating from military school as a high schooler, then going on to graduate from Johns Hopkins and Oxford, and becoming a Rhodes scholar. The other Wes Moore was involved in a violent crime and sentenced to life in prison. The author, finding this quite remarkable, wrote to his namesake in prison, not really expecting to hear back, but he does, and the two men develop a relationship of writing and visits, through which they explore “why”? What reasons, what circumstances ultimately caused these two lives, that started so similarly, to diverge into two completely different outcomes. In the final analysis, the author isn’t completely sure, but acknowledges that having people in your corner who believe in you and sacrifice for you (even if you don’t realize it at the time), to get you on the right path and help keep you there, was a game changer for him. I found their story and the author’s reflections very compelling.

One thing I’m sorry I missed in the audible version was a list of resources at the end of the written book, and I would eventually like to get a copy to see what those are.

On a personal note, I was so inspired by the story, I googled the author, and was surprised to find out that he started the Robin Hood non-profit charity in NYC. Coincidentally I first learned about Robin Hood during a telethon at the beginning of the pandemic, engaging celebrities to donate and so encouraging donations from others, too. Beyond the pandemic, their mission is to help elevate those living in poverty in NYC. THAT was Wes Moore? Amazing.
Profile Image for Erin.
88 reviews117 followers
April 28, 2021
I read this for school, I absolutely hated it, the end. *yawns*

First off, this is the kind of book I never would have willingly picked up. If you know me, then you know I try to steer clear of any genre that's not fiction. I live by this quote that I made up just this second "If it's non-fiction, an autobiography, a biography, and/or a memoir, there's a 99.9999% chance it's going to be 1 star or less." Unfortunately, this book fits into the 99.9999% majority.

But the place that starts with s and ends with l that has six letters forced me to read this book unless I wanted to fail. This might have been a 1.5 star read had it not been for that, but being forced to answer questions and write paragraphs has ruined my reading experience. *shudders at the memories*

I suppose this could be a good book for the right person, but it just wasn't for me.

The book is about an unlikely coincidence of two men sharing the same name with drastically different fates. Author Wes Moore grew up to be a man with a promising future while "other" Wes grew up to be a criminal sentenced to life in jail. Throughout this book we follow the lives of these two men as they grow from children into adults.

Also, the audiobook is narrated by the author, which I suppose was pretty cool. That audiobook might as well have been the only thing that got me through this book.

0.5/5 stars
Profile Image for Tamara Sam.
21 reviews5 followers
May 19, 2011
I literally finished this book cover-to-cover in less than 24hrs. My pending book club meeting this weekend played a role in my desire to finish quickly *smile*, but this was definitely a page turner. I’ve always been intrigued by the lives and struggles of people growing up in difficult neighborhoods, and under less than favorable circumstances. Maybe that is my sheltered naiveté shining through, who knows.

Throughout the book, my goal was to find the ‘turning point’ – the decision, scenario, opportunity that accounted for the difference between the life paths of these two young men. I failed. There wasn’t one certain event that stood out as the deciding factor. Instead, I was able to see all the benefits of family, support, exposure, and shared knowledge once placed in the hands of someone who determines to take advantage of it. I don’t know if it’s pregnancy hormones or what, but I got really emotional thinking about the responsibility ‘the village’ has on our young people, and my responsibility as a soon to be parent. I pray God shows me how to be the best parent, and a mentor to anyone He brings along my path. But more importantly, I pray that we find a way to give as many young people as we can options in life, so that when they are ready to make long term decisions about their life, they have something concrete to refer to.

Loved the presentation of this book and the journey it took me through. It is pretty powerful because of how it made me think, reflect, and challenge myself after reading it. Two thumbs up!
Profile Image for Sam.
99 reviews7 followers
April 19, 2022
Actually, no, why did I give this a 1.5? the more I think about it, the more i hate it. so yeah, 0.5

This book frustrates me to a different level oh MY GOD. My creative non-fiction teacher better be ready to give me 30 minutes of discussion time for my thoughts of this.

Disclaimer: I'm more of a fiction reader, so I'm not the most eligible to review this as a non-fiction. It was an assigned school reading under my cnf subject. Take all what I'm saying in terms of craft with a grain of salt.

I get what it's trying to do, what's it's TRYING to say and comment on, but the execution is just not it. The writing, while not bad and is definitely passable, really is not anything special. It's definitely the strongest when the author is telling his own story, and weakest when telling Wes' story so overall I feel indifferent. The storytelling, didn't feel like it was coherent enough. It was just a series of moments that happened in their life that are supposed to be paralleled but it never really was? the story itself was hollow and a lot telling and not showing. Therefore, I wasn't able to connect or sympathize with anyone. And the whole "premise" or the selling point wasn't even accurate. It's marketed as them practically sharing a name and a similar life, but somehow through the decisions they made, one of them is successful and the other is spending a life in prison. But beyond superficial similarities like names, race, living some parts of their life in the similar place, and being fatherless, it really ends there. They were never given the same opportunities, and it's obvious that they're relationships with their families is totally different and that played a part of where they both ended up.

The author also didn't explore enough of why this kind of problem is so rampant with young black men. Everything felt surface level and discussions of racism and how the government treats immigrants and people of color were never brought up or fully explored. The author kind of makes a point that decisions are what leads us to the life we have, and yes while I agree to a certain extent, there are factors out of our control that contributes to our life, be it for good or bad that was never really touched upon.

I also didn't really learn anything from this book beyond superficial facts. I kinda knew most of the things that the author talked about. I was literally waiting for it to tell me something that I didn't know. I literally had to put down my phone because there was a line about the typical eVeRy mInUtE oF yOuR lIFe cOuNtS moral that we all know.

so yeah, I'm so fucking frustrated that I wasted two days of my life for this and discussing this in class will literally make or break my grade. I am now officially in a reading slump.
Profile Image for Ms. Parks.
2 reviews
November 30, 2013
When I student taught last year at Pattonville, one of my students told me that he was reading The Other Wes Moore, and it was the best book he’d ever read. Now, usually I’m excited to hear any of my students say they loved reading a certain book, but this was an especially big deal. This was a student who was born a crack baby, didn’t get past page 2 of The Great Gatsby because it was “just that boring,” couldn’t sit still, and was hardcore failing my class. Yet he was genuinely enjoying a book. As a teacher, I constantly strive to make what goes on in my classroom relevant to my students’ outside lives and interests. So, I picked up the book with the intentions of seeing if this is a book worth teaching to my students.

The Other Wes Moore is a true story that examines what really makes the difference between people growing up in similar circumstances: is it quality of education, parental support, the friends we chose for ourselves, self-esteem, differing life experiences? Two different men, strangers to each other, grow up without a father, in same neighborhood in inner-city Baltimore, and share the same name: Wes Moore. We Moore (the author) goes to college, becomes a Rhodes Scholar, attends Oxford, studies abroad in South Africa, serves in the military, befriends some of the most influential people in the nation, and has a bright future ahead of him. The other Wes Moore drops out of school, deals drugs, fathers children with different mothers, and ends up in prison for life. The author, Wes Moore, was in college when he heard a news report about this man with the same man imprisoned for manslaughter, and he haunted Wes’s thoughts for two years. Finally, Wes wrote to the other Wes in prison requesting an interview, and the book took off from there.

The book’s narrative jumps between the two Wes’s lives in sort of a parallel structure, which is quite interesting to read: in fact, I finished the book so quickly that I found myself asking, “Wait—it’s over already?!” While the two Wes’s lives are quite similar when they are very young, their lives diverge drastically when the author Wes is sent off to military school by his Mom (who has a college education and an excellent family and friend support system) after he becomes a discipline problem at his school. The author Wes’s Mom had to sacrifice a lot to send her son to military school, but that sort of left me wondering about the options that concerned inner-city parents really have if they have no money. And surely military school isn’t the only fix for children who have disciplinary problems. What seemed to make the biggest difference between the two Wes’s, though, wasn’t just the decisions of their mothers, but I think the support systems that they and their families chose for themselves. The author Wes’s Mom moved in with her parents after her husband died, and she had a strong network of friends that was able to recommend military school to her. In contrast, the other Wes’s Mom hung with the wrong crowd, just as the other Wes himself did. There is one bright spot in the book for the other Wes, though, and I thought things were going to finally turn around: when he leaves home for several months for the Job Corps, in which he lived in an area like a college campus, was taught useful job skills, and was surrounded by positive influence. However, once he moved back home, there were simply no permanent jobs paying more than $9 an hour for his skill set and he was left without the support he had at Job Corps, so he gave in to his past ways of making money so he could support his family. That was the saddest part of the story for me.

Just like my student at Pattonville, I strongly recommend this book. I don’t think only people with some sort of a connection to the city will enjoy the book, because many of the struggles and temptations that both Wes Moores go through are everywhere: drugs, teenage pregnancy, stealing, fighting, living with poverty. Really, I think that anyone who is a teenager, or who works with teenagers, or anyone interested in the human experience, will benefit from reading this fascinating, fast-paced book.
Profile Image for Darla.
3,143 reviews448 followers
April 28, 2017
This book was a fascinating study of the side-by-side lives of two men with the same names but very different futures. Their lives begin in the same neighborhoods yet one ends up in prison and the other in prison for life.

The incarcerated Wes More speaks of the necessity of recognizing the difference between a second chance and a last chance. This distinction is pivotal to the story. Both young men face those second chances and by the grace of God the author uses his second chances to progress in life. The book truly does show the truths in the "There but for the grace of God go I" sentiment.

As I pondered the crisis depicted in this book, I keep coming back to this: The government cannot do everything. While attending a book discussion on this title, so many pointed to the government as failing these folks. There is no way the government can cast a safety net wide enough to catch all of those in failing neighborhoods. And if it could, would we still be living in a free republic?

I would also point to the strong religious convictions shown by the author's grandparents. In my experience, the reformed faith is effective in grounding God's children in the truths and blessings of His sovereignty. Soli deo gloria!
Profile Image for catherine ♡.
1,128 reviews148 followers
May 28, 2018
I think the premise for this was super interesting, and it had a lot of potential to be a really heartfelt read, because I quite liked some of the scenes, but in the long run the book fell a little flat for me. It was a lot of "tell", not "show", and it started to feel like a timeline of life events that I think could have been improved with more emotional emphasis. I also really loved the bits about South Africa and apartheid, and having just finished reading Trevor Noah's Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood, it was really interesting to read more about it from a different perspective.
Profile Image for Aubrey.
1,269 reviews695 followers
June 11, 2020
I gained very little, if anything, from this book. It is quite possible I would have gotten more had I read it in middle or even grade school, as it seems certain users on this site were made to do, but as it stands, this work is little more than a cog in society's efforts to force the individual to internalize social problems rather than recognize that the fault lies in larger social mechanics. There's also the matter that this work is far shorter than I was led to believe, and while I'm certain some readers would find its tens of pages devoted to charts of relief organizations useful, it doesn't make up for the text's repeated glossing over the underlying mechanic that makes black lives barely, if at all, matter in the United States. Indeed, the othering present in the title itself should have tipped me off, but the work had been on my shelf for so long and had already been put into a reading challenge that I felt ripping off the band aid would be the best course of action. Fool me once, I suppose.

I didn't hate this book. Far from it, this book could be useful, even life changing, if used correctly and not taken too seriously, for this work in no way enters the conversation held between The Fire Next Time and Between the World and Me. Instead, it joins a certain breed of self help book that treats with Reaganomics and the War on Drugs as necessary real world situations rather than the specifically targeted and genocidal evils that they are, placing the burden of their existence on the mother with no degree and the father with no healthcare and the children with no childhood. The decision between one Moore of the military one the other Moore of jail is no decision at all, for death, rape, PTSD, and chronic poverty are what await the vast majority of US veterans if official statistics are to believed. It was cherry picking that raised one Wes Moore on not the back of one, or the backs of two, but many, letting a few through the gate to keep the myth of the American dream alive, as if taking away ten rights and then giving back one was was what would usher in world peace. This "we" Moore mentions should be pointed directly at white people, as it's no use holding open the elevator if someone outside is taking an ax to your fingers, but of course the author never goes that far. Much time has passed, and the top reviews show not all are fooled, but that doesn't mean any of them are taking responsibility.

There are so many books out there that the status quo reads in order to reinforce their bad faith regarding anything worth valuing in a human being. This book doesn't set out to do that, unlike a number of classics and genre works, but it falls into many of the traps liberation espouses: pointing of fingers is not permitted despite the elephant crushing the mouse under its foot, anger is only permitted through institutionalized violence and not justified protests, neutrality is an attainable state within a settler state fed on enslavement and wholesale massacre, etc, etc, etc. There is nothing natural about either of the Wes Moore's lives. Both lives were methodically planned out, both were socioeconomically executed, and both served a larger purpose in stabilizing the human sacrifice complex that is the United states. Now is not the time for pages of phone numbers putting the responsibility of action on the already targeted individual. Now is the time to recognize that the lifeguard is the one who is doing the drowning.
Profile Image for Miss Murder.
141 reviews51 followers
June 20, 2020
"Having an advocate on the inside...had obviously helped. It made me think deeply about the way privilege and preference work in the world, and how many kids who didn't have "luck" like mine in this instance would find themselves forever outside this ring of power and prestige. So many opportunities in this country are apportioned in this arbitrary and miserly way, distributed to those who already have the benefit of a privileged legacy."


Wes Moore & Wes Moore are two young black boys growing up just a few blocks apart in Baltimore. While they share the same name, their lives have two very different outcomes. One of them grew up to enlist in the US Army, receive one of the most prestigious scholarships, and attend Oxford University, just a few major events in a lifetime full of achievements. The other Wes Moore began serving a life sentence without parole at the young age of 23, the consequence of a life filled with poverty and drugs.

For those that have a gripe with this book because it does not truly explain the why behind the two conflicting lives of the Wes Moores: The book is not supposed to answer that question. It is meant as an addition to the nature vs. nurture argument.

The author himself states he is not sure why their two lives are so different - whether teen pregnancy, mentorship, or access to education was what truly changed the course of their lives. As the author points out, he is not sure that any one decision or event changed their life to the point of no return. I think this is a problem I had in the beginning of the book as well, but in order to truly understand the story one must learn to get over that desire for a singular answer.

What the book doesn't address is the two very different lives they led from the beginning. The successful Wes Moore had a family of college graduates and a mother that was a strict disciplinarian. The unsuccessful Wes Moore had a broken family with minimal supervision and guidance. It is clear that their young decisions both sparked trouble and laid bare potential issues ahead, but their resources were vastly different. This allowed for one to lead a very successful life and the other to follow in the same path as the rest of his family.

The author, Wes Moore, has a very inspiring life story that makes you want to achieve just as much as he has. However, I feel like the novel did not address the true nuances of the decisions both Weses made. I feel like the imprisoned Wes Moore was overshadowed by the accomplishments of the author, as we were able to see into his life so much more. I wish I could have gotten to know the unsuccessful Wes Moore better, to understand what his home life was truly like, his life with his multiple baby mothers, and his relationship to his mother as his life was headed down the wrong path. I feel as though we were able to see that with the author, but not with the subject on which the entire book is written.

I was genuinely surprised that the author spent "hours upon hours" on interviews and research with the other Wes Moore. The book shows you three very short interactions with the two of them and that is as far as actual interviews and firsthand conversations go. This book has great potential and contains awesome reflections on the struggles of black boys in America, but it was a lot of disappointment in the end.
Profile Image for Deka.
134 reviews
May 10, 2013
the story of two wes moores that ended very differently though the author doesnt pinpoint an exact reason. i dont think he should. it's impossible to say definitively what would or would not have improved one's life. but, to me this book illustrates the importance of asking for help when you need it, the importance of education and a supportive family, the weight of accountability and responsibility, the variance of human nature, and how a seemingly small decision can change your life.
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