Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review: The Power of Half

The Power of Half: One Family's Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back by Kevin and Hannah Salwen documents the Salwen family's decision to self their 6,500 square foot house and donate half the sales price (that's $800,000) to villages in Ghana. A noble effort? Of course. Inspiring? Yes. Great read? Um, well, as much as I'd like to say otherwise, not so much.

First, as a wanna be author myself, I think it's amazing that Kevin Salwen and his daughter Hannah wrote this book together. To be Hannah's age and have a co-author credit to her name is awesome. Hell, I'd be happy to be my age and have written or co-written a book. But most of the sections of the book where Hannah weighs in really didn't add anything to the story in my mind, although it might be beneficial for kids who are reading this book (and if you know any kids who voluntarily read this book and finish it, I want to meet them!)

Obviously this family is well-off, but it doesn't seem like they're as rich as I would need to be to feel comfortable giving an $800,000 donation. I give them total props for that because even if I owned a $2 million dollar home and the lifestyle that went with it, I'd still be very, very hard pressed to give up $800K for charity. I mean, that's a huge chunk of change. Not only that, but that each member of the family agreed to the idea, albeit some took longer to do so than others, is also remarkable.

But that brings me to the other issue in the book that rankled, the Salwen's downsizing from 6,500 square feet to a home a little over half that size. Even a 3,500 square foot home seems pretty big for two adults, two kids and two dogs. Does that even really count as downsizing? I mean, of course it is in the mathematical sense of the word, but the larger concept of downsizing is usually meant to only use as much space as you need. Most typical downsizers start at where the Salwens ended up. But the tone of the book when talking about their downsizing and other parts of the project was just a turnoff.

Despite the great concept for a story, the book itself didn't capture my interest as I would have hoped and I found the tone grating most of the time, which ended up making me feel more annoyed than inspired. In the end, I struggled to finish the story, which is why I have to give this book 2.0/5.0.


  1. Thank you for this review. I've had this book on my list to buy for about a year. I didn't really know much about it, and now, it sounds like I would have very little to relate with. So you saved me some money.
    On a related topic, I bought The Moneyless Man, and while it was a good book, and a great concept, it kinda sounded like a blog that had been put into book form. Kind of anti-climactic. I've never heard anything but RAVES about this book, so I feel like a real jerk even saying this. The author did, however, donate all proceeds from the book.
    Did anyone else feel this way about The Moneyless Man?

  2. Marcy - Thanks for the comment! These review posts get few comments so sometimes I wonder if they're a waste of time. It's nice to know someone found this one worthwhile.

    I haven't read the Moneyless Man, but now I'm curious. :) I've had the same reaction to a book when I seem to be the only one who doesn't love it. No need to feel bad for giving an honest and gentle opinion. I don't like giving less than positive reviews either, and almost didn't publish this one, but I felt the need to be honest.

    I borrowed The Power of Half from the library, as I do the vast majority of books I read, so it's no terrible loss if it's not a favorite. I do so love our library system!

  3. I definitely like to see book reviews. I don't get a chance to read very often these days but it's nice to have some good ideas on what to get and what not to bother with.
    Hope you are having a great week :)

    1. Good to hear, thanks Martha! This week has been good, thanks, especially the beautiful weather. Hope all is good with you as well!


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