Saturday, January 3, 2015

Book Review: The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs

Title: The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League
Author: Jeff Hobbs
Enjoyment Rating: *****
Source: Kindle
Content Alert: Drug use and violence

Robert Peace was born in East Orange, New Jersey to a single mother who made minimum wage as a kitchen worker. His father was a drug dealer who went to prison for killing two women when Rob was a young boy. He started dealing himself when he was still a teenager. If this was all you knew about Rob Peace, you probably wouldn't be surprised to learn that Peace died in a drug-related shooting when he was 30. But Rob Peace also had a father who read with him and worked on homework every night they were together. He had a mother who made enormous sacrifices to send him to private school. He was a swimmer, a water polo player, and a student leader. He was enough of a standout at his high school that a wealthy benefactor paid for his education at Yale. He took on one of the toughest majors (Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry), and graduated from Yale having achieved some of the school's highest honors. And yet, that terrible death awaited him.

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace is one of the best books I read in 2014. It was definitely my favorite nonfiction read. It reminded me a lot of The Secret Life of Henrietta Lacks, probably mostly in the way that the authors initially seem quite detached from the story, but it becomes clear that they have a personal stake in the game as the narrative unfolds (Jeff Hobbs and Rob Peace were roommates at Yale). Hobbs does a great job looking at Rob and the other people in his life, and trying to piece together why someone who overcame so many obstacles and had so much potential eventually lost his footing. Hobbs asserts that Peace's life was not a cliche, and reading the book reveals the complexity of his story. The book is definitely worth reading, and Rob Peace is a person I won't soon forget.

1 comment:

Rachel Anderson said...

Robert Peace was a student in my department while I was at Yale, although I didn't know him personally. As I read this book I was "there" again - I could picture him on campus, picture him in lectures, in the labs. And then picture him driving down I-95 southbound to New Jersey to switch back to a very different life. We are reading this book for our book club next month and I think it will be a great discussion. Can you really ever escape your childhood?? That will be one of the main topics of our discussion.