Review of The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League written by Jeff Hobbs
Rating ****

Last week in Texas a sixteen-year-old boy was charged with the murder of his fourteen-year-old neighbor, a young girl whose body later turned up in a landfill. What was behind the senseless crime? The girl wanted to buy some marijuana that she intended to resell. Two lives lost. Two families now dealing with tragedies.

The story of Robert Peace is also one of a senseless death. Robert Peace grew up in an environment of limited means and opportunities. His father went to prison for murder when Robert was very young. But Robert had a sharp intellect. He overcame the obstacles before him and excelled academically. So much so that a benefactor offered to pay Robert’s full college expenses for whichever school he desired. That offer led him to Yale.

Since you know from the title of the book that things don’t end well for Robert, the bulk of the book recounts the events leading up to that tragic ending. The author was Robert’s roommate at Yale. After learning of his friend’s unexpected death, he examines Robert’s past to try and make sense of how someone with so much promise ended up a murder victim.

Early on there are hints that drugs and drug dealing will play a role in Robert’s demise. Despite nearly being thrown out of Yale for selling marijuana, Robert continues to do so. After he graduates, he continues to dabble in the small time drug trade while still trying to figure out his path forward.

While retracing Robert’s steps before and after graduation from Yale, the author touches on topics such as race, class, and poverty. The result is a well-rounded examination of one person’s triumphs and failures.

In the end, Robert’s death plays out like a scene from Breaking Bad with Robert as Walter White. And just like that, another life is snuffed out.

 

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