THE POWER OF HALF by Kevin Salwen


One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back
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Feel-good account of an Atlanta family that sold its $2 million home and gave half the money to a nonprofit group.

As told by former Wall Street Journal reporter Kevin Salwen and teenage daughter Hannah, the Salwens had it made: lives as “obnoxious, consuming yuppies,” a three-floor historic home, both kids in private schools and a comfortable investment portfolio. Then one day, distressed by the needs of the homeless, 14-year-old Hannah asked why the family, which gave generously to charities and even took in a Hurricane Katrina family, wasn’t doing more. Ensuing discussion with her mother younger brother and dad launched an unusual two-year adventure in which the likable family downscaled, moved into a more modest house and worked as a determined, close-knit group to find the right charity for their gift of $800,000 (half their home’s sale price in a poor economy). In this down-to-earth, somewhat syrupy account of their “journey of service,” the Salwens recall the banter, debate and decision-making they shared as they sought advice on ways to give effectively; vetted organizations working in Africa, where they wanted to help; and finally chose to support several villages in Ghana through the Hunger Project, a charity that emphasizes empowerment and self-reliance in helping communities escape poverty. The authors describe their on-site visits in rural Ghana, where their money helped build two community centers, each serving up to a dozen villages and consisting of a meeting hall, a bank for microloans, food-storage space and a health center. With occasional tips from Hannah on how readers can start family conversations and find ways to give “half”—of time spent watching television, Web surfing, etc.—as volunteers, this debut also includes the revealing responses of friends and TV viewers (Today Show and CNN), who were variously inspired, threatened or puzzled by the ambitious project. Salwen says the unusual act of philanthropy ultimately fostered not only the well-being of villagers but the deepening relationships within his family.

Schmaltzy story of a gutsy attempt to make a difference.

Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-547-24806-6
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2009


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