The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace/ Book review

By Larry Johnson

I wasn’t as impressed with this book as were some of the other reviewers whose comments I read on Amazon and Goodreads, but I didn’t hate it, either, the way some readers did.

The book, the first-ever by Yale graduate Jeff Hobbs, gets a 4.5 out of 10 stars among readers on Amazon. I would give it about 6.5 out of 10.

The topic is interesting, and I can see why the book sold well.

Robert Peace is a young Black man with a brilliant mind. Hobbs meets him the day they move into student housing at Yale. Hobbs, who is white, is the son of wealthy parents. Peace is from the nearby Newark ghetto.

Peace hasn’t had an easy life before he gets to Yale. He is brilliant, but his neighborhood is an urban wasteland and his father is in prison for a murder that it’s highly unclear he actually committed.

Hobbs has had a life of some privilege, but seems like a good sort of person. I wouldn’t say at all that the two young men become best friends, but there is something there. They connect, on a fairly high level.

Part of that connection is Peace’s access to high-quality marijuana, which he deals in large quantities at Yale, including to his roommates.

Peace, who remains something of an enigma to his roommates, is ultimately shot to death after he graduates from Yale and is back home in Newark, an outcome foretold in the title.

Hobbs doesn’t judge Peace, but his narrative is as complete as he can make it. so it includes Peace’s warts as well as his good qualities. Did Hobbs capitalize on Peace’s story? Well, sure. I don’t see that as at all unusual. That’s what most writers do, on some level.

Nor do I think that this particular book should have been written by a Black person. Hobbs appears to have gotten help from people close to Peace in Newark. The book seems to be sourced thoroughly enough to be credible, and Hobbs went to Newark on several occasions for interviews and research. There are things about urban Newark that Hobbs couldn’t understand because he didn’t live them, but he knows that and says so.

Where the book falls short for me is that it’s just too long and too detailed for what it is. The use of selective detail improves credibility for any writer, but the key word here is “selective.” Hobbs sometimes doesn’t know when to stop. An editor could have helped with this.

This is a good book, and well worth a look, but could have been 20 percent shorter and it would have been 20 percent better.

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