Wes Moore got the idea for his nonfiction work The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates when he heard about another man named Wes Moore who had recently been involved in the violent robbery of a jewelry store. The author wondered how the two of them, who were roughly the same age and from the same Baltimore neighborhood, had gone down such different paths. The other Wes was facing a life sentence in prison while the author was a Rhodes Scholar and a decorated military veteran. The other Wes agreed to meet with the author at the prison where he was incarcerated to discuss their fates, and this book is the result of the many conversations they had.
The book doesn’t make excuses but instead shows how a bad decision or two can truly change someone’s life. It also shows how a decision initially seen as cruel can turn into a positive, which happens when the author’s mother sends him to military school. He ends up at Valley Forge Military Academy where he fills his first few days with insubordination. He refuses to get out of bed one day, which results in several cadets coming into his room, lifting up his mattress, and dumping him on the floor. He also attempts to escape the academy one night in hopes of catching a train home. This failed attempt just results in him getting horribly lost in some nearby woods and returning to the academy defeated. Having bottomed out, he starts adjusting to life and eventually excels at Valley Forge.
One of the other Wes’s final attempts to be a law abiding citizen comes when he signs up for the Job Corps program. This should have been the turning point for him as he does well in the program and finishes it hoping to make an honest living. But the quick money from drug dealing and other crimes is too tempting for the other Wes, particularly compared to the meager wages his Job Corps skills get him.
To call The Other Wes Moore simply moving or heartbreaking would be an understatement. This is a book we could all benefit from reading.