Salwen, Kevin & Hannah Salwen. The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. ISBN 978-0547248066 242 pp. $
This motivational tale of a family who, spurred on by their teen daughter Hannah’s altruistic desires, sold their McMansion in Atlanta GA and donated half of the proceeds to the Hunger Project is meant to demonstrate a relatable way to make a difference: choose a number, like 50%, and commit to donating or cutting that amount from your life. There are going to be some who just can’t relate to what the Salwens were are to sacrifice, or having generous neighbors who agree to slash the price on a property they are selling and donate an additional $100,000 to a charitable endeavor.
Dad Kevin shares getting caught up in the rat race to improve/upgrade with each promotion, and how being more “successful” served to fragment the family in ways they weren’t even really aware until they made changes. I read through the first half of the book, which covers the background of the family, incorporates facts about everything from world hunger to how much people donate to charity, and includes the details of what may be, to some parents, a unique and visionary decision-making process for making immense lifestyle changes: letting the votes of the children count as much of that of the parents.
High schooler Hannah lends her voice in suggesting activities for readers at regular intervals, to help them begin to make a difference in the world around them. Sharing that the son Joseph used the project to enter a documentary competition (that he won) and then squandered the majority of the prize money on a new guitar (with the agreement of the rest of the family) doesn’t sit well with me–their reasoning was it was his money, and their project was about the money from the house.
I think this could have used stronger editing. I found it repetitive in details and slow moving, and the parts by Hannah didn’t seem strategically placed, often breaking up the narrative. I don’t think her enthusiasm comes through, and she is the driving force behind the project. Tighter editing and more Hannah would make this more appealing, and convinced me to see it through all the way to the end, but I’m setting it aside.