Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.
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Same Kind of Different as Me is sort of a dual memoir of Ron Hall and Denver Moore. Both grew up in the 1940s-1960s but their lives could not have turned out more differently. Hall becomes an investment banker then art dealer, horrifying his wife with an impulse purchase of a Rolls Royce. Moore is raised in a sharecropping family where the conditions sound like a description of the Reconstruction era.
Denver's story is what kept me reading through the first half of this book. The short, choppy chapters that randomly switched points of view were difficult to get into, and it took a little too long for a connection to be made. It would have been nice to see each of their backgrounds laid out in their entirety rather than hopping back and forth. The fact that Denver endured conditions that I wouldn't have believed still existed in the 1960s made me hold on until we were taken back to him. Hall's chapters of growing up almost seemed to purposely make the reader dislike him so that he could be redeemed later on.
Deborah, Ron's wife, is a saint in pretty much every sense of the word, at least to hear Ron tell her story. Once she brings these two men together in friendship about halfway through the book, things really improve and the story flows despite the switching narrators. This is also where things get emotional. Do not read this book in public.
As Ron and Denver learn from each other and support each other through tragedy, each gives their testimony of their Christian faith. I have noticed that other reviewers rate this book quite low due to the Christian overtones. This is a Christian memoir. If that will bother you, then I would recommend not reading it. The entire story is about the faith that brings people together and sustains them through hardship.
A minor issue I had was the fact that this book, about finding the joy in life beyond material possessions, seems to be adding to Ron Hall's millions. A quick internet search will discover Denver's art for sale, Ron's daughter offering photographic services at the Rocky Top ranch, information for books that Ron is continuing to write, and speaking engagements that can be booked. I would love to assume that this is being done to continue the work Deborah began, but, if it is, it's not mentioned.
Overall, this is an eye-opening story that will not allow the reader to look at the poor and homeless in the same way ever again. Anyone would be touched by the heart-wrenching story through the last half of this book. It is a tear-jerker, but not an amazingly written one. It is a quick, emotional read that I'm sure will fuel great discussion for book club.