The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back by Kevin & Hannah Salwen

This is the story of an Atlanta family who decided to sell their million-dollar historic mansion and use half the proceeds to build two grain mills in impoverished rural Ghana. It is exactly as sanctimonious as it sounds. And that’s what makes it so fun.

The serious stuff is there, too. Book clubs will have plenty to chew over the family’s decision to spend their $800,000 in Africa, fully aware that the $2 trillion-plus in African aid in the last half-century has never made a lasting dent in the poverty rate there. Anybody deeply invested in a charitable cause will identify with the family’s kitchen table discussions over issues such as whether it is better to help a few people in a big way or a lot of people in a small way. And school groups and families will appreciate the book’s cross-generational appeal, thanks to sidebars written by teenaged Hannah Salwen.

But when the family isn’t wringing their hands over the poor, they are the very picture of consumerism run amok. An antique hearth and ornate mantle in the bedroom of a 14-year-old girl? Commuting to a play date in a private jet? “”Downsizing”” to a 3,000-plus square-foot house?

Author Kevin Salwen relates these decadent details with chagrin, and he professes a desire to get off the consumption treadmill. Still, he is careful to never let readers forget how rich he is, even after giving half to the poor. Some people looking for an inspirational tale of charitable sacrifice will be put by the book’s smug, self-congratulatory tone. But fans of reality television featuring wealthy housewives or vapid B-list celebrities will find that this book unintentionally provides the same sort of voyeuristic guilty pleasure.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

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