Jeffrey Cohan's Reviews > A Prayer for the City

A Prayer for the City by H.G. Bissinger
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Jan 05, 2011

it was amazing

Give a great nonfiction writer like Buzz Bissinger unfettered access to a colorful and complicated politician like Ed Rendell and you’re going to get an amazing book.

I don’t hand out five stars too often but “A Prayer for the City” probably deserves six.

This inside look at Rendell’s first term as mayor of Philadelphia is much, much more than a biography of a politician, although it’s a darn good biography. More than anything else, “A Prayer” is a heart-wrenching lamentation about our country’s betrayal of its big cities, and about the ramifications of that.

Bissinger doesn’t shy away from addressing federal policy, in all its wonky and nefarious aspects. But what makes “A Prayer for the City” sing, or make that wail, are its vivid descriptions of how policy affects people on a personal level.

Brilliantly, Bissinger devotes much of the book to Philadelphia residents like Fifi Mazzccua, an aging African-American woman who is single-handedly raising a houseful of grandchildren and great-grandchildren while her son rots in prison; or like Mike McGovern, a city prosecutor who confronts the most atrocious acts of violence in the urban cesspool.

“A Prayer” also dives into the travails of political leadership in our society, where even the rare, well-intentioned elected official must constantly deal with people who put their self-interest ahead of the common good.

If you care about cities – or even if you just care about our country – this book is an important one to read.

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