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The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace

A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League
Narrated by: George Newbern
Length: 13 hrs and 21 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A heartfelt, and riveting biography of the short life of a talented young African-American man who escapes the slums of Newark for Yale University only to succumb to the dangers of the streets - and of one's own nature - when he returns home.

When author Jeff Hobbs arrived at Yale University, he became fast friends with the man who would be his college roommate for four years, Robert Peace. Robert's life was rough from the beginning in the crime-ridden streets of Newark in the 1980s, with his father in jail and his mother earning less than $15,000 a year. But Robert was a brilliant student, and it was supposed to get easier when he was accepted to Yale, where he studied molecular biochemistry and biophysics. But it didn't get easier. Robert carried with him the difficult dual nature of his existence, "fronting" in Yale, and at home.

Through an honest rendering of Robert's relationships - with his struggling mother, with his incarcerated father, with his teachers and friends and fellow drug dealers - The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace encompasses the most enduring conflicts in America: race, class, drugs, community, imprisonment, education, family, friendship, and love. It's about the collision of two fiercely insular worlds - the ivy-covered campus of Yale University and Newark, New Jersey, and the difficulty of going from one to the other and then back again. It's about poverty, the challenges of single motherhood, and the struggle to find male role models in a community where a man is more likely to go to prison than to college. It's about reaching one's greatest potential and taking responsibility for your family no matter the cost. It's about trying to live a decent life in America. But most all the story is about the tragic life of one singular brilliant young man. His end, a violent one, is heartbreaking and powerful and unforgettable.

©2014 Simon & Schuster Audio (P)2014 Jeff Hobbs

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Solid book

I would recommend this book. It was well written and structure. It was obvious a lot of detailed and empathetic research went into the many individual detailed accounts. The story was intriguing but I felt the author's bias caused a failure to adequately highlight the fact that a lot of Rob's problems were self-inflicted. I did appreciate the well depicted contrast of the two worlds Rob found himself in as well as the constant tragedy Rob faced everyday switching between the two worlds, never able to fully commit to either his past with family, friends and familiarity or his new world of potential. Overall a solid book I enjoyed listening to, thank you.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Jami
  • 27-07-2016

I've Heard This Before

I had such high hopes for this book based on the description and reviews and couldn't wait to read it. Wow, was I ever disappointed.

The story itself was not unique; we've heard it before. There are other stories about people who faced similar or worse challenges and made it; unlike Rob, those people didn't have the luxury of a benefactor who gave him a blank check for his education. I could not engage with the main character the way he was depicted: mean to his girlfriends, made $100,000 in tax-free illegal money in college, trying to trick a close friend into illegal gun dealing, dealing drugs, etc. While he was good to his mother and friends, and no doubt extremely intelligent, I just could not get past the other things. It really is too bad that he didn't use his intelligence to benefit people; with his math/science abilities, he could have done some real good for society.

The other issue I had with the book was that it was way too long. This is a book about Rob, not about the author's wedding, their inability to conceive, or his publishing struggles. There were also characters who were not integral to the story and could easily have been left out. Due to this, I found the book very tedious at times and was often tempted to just quit. However, I persevered, waiting for the book to blow me away like it had with others......that just didn't happen for me. While there were thought provoking issues to ponder, this just wasn't the book to bring them to the forefront.

106 of 114 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Diana - Audible
  • 24-06-2015

Heartbreaking

It's hard not to get hooked into Robert Peace's story, which is so well-written by his friend Jeff Hobbs and performed so elegantly by George Newbern. Even knowing how it'll all end, based on the book's subtitle, you can't help but hope that the brilliant, loyal, but conflicted Peace will still somehow turn it all around. This is very compelling narrative nonfiction, and I'll be looking for more of Newbern's narrations in the future.

48 of 53 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Rudy
  • 05-12-2014

A beautiful, elegiac remembrance of a friend

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Not possible, but yes.

Any additional comments?

Gorgeously written, deeply felt memoir of the author's Yale roommate, the ironically named Robert Peace. Whether he was 'Newark-proofing' himself as DeShaun or 'fronting' as Yalie Rob, Peace was a brilliant, engaging, profoundly conflicted young man. Author Jeff Hobbs writes as though he were born to tell his friend's story. The narrator George Newbern is one of the best I've heard on Audible. No embellishments; just a real understanding of and appreciation for the author's prose.

53 of 61 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • monique warren
  • 21-09-2018

I wish there was a different narrator

I hope that Robert's friend was able to profit and get the "hit" book that he so desperately wanted to write. I didn't like the angle that this cautionary tale was told from.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • oldmanwagner
  • 02-12-2014

Everyone Should Read this Book

What made the experience of listening to The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace the most enjoyable?

Robert Peace, the main character, is charismatic, driven, focused, and flawed. HIs should've been a life of steady ascension, despite a tough start in life, and instead he ended up driving in literal circles. The book functions not only as a tale of triumph and loss, but also as an object lesson in the problems poor kids face in improving their status/lot in life. And the book does it without wallowing, and in beautiful prose that sidles up to poetry.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace?

There was no single moment: as this tale is a series of small moments, of how tiny hiccups--which would be totally surmountable by the middle class, and even the lower middle class--are the stuff that derails lives and destroys opportunities, for those who live below the poverty line. But it is not all tragic, in it, Robert's extraordinariness shines through and there joy he experienced in his life is conveyed here too.

Have you listened to any of George Newbern’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I thought he was wonderful, really excellent. The quality of this narration would make me seek out his other projects.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes. I only stopped because I fell asleep.

Any additional comments?

I think anyone who is curious about why poverty is ingrained as a seeming unovercomable obstacle in this country should read this book.

36 of 43 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Scott
  • 23-01-2015

A young man with no redeeming qualities

Let me start by saying that I thought the narration was quite good, and the author did a fine job writing this biography. However, it became apparent fairly early on in this book that there was going to be no silver lining or real moral. Which makes me wonder why the author felt that this was a story worth telling. There are plenty of tragic stories out there that would be of more benefit and worthwhile to readers. Robert Peace goes from making one shockingly bad decision to another, no matter how many chances he is given. The best description of him in the book is from the author's speculation as to what one woman in Rob's life might think if she knew what he was up to. Specifically, that he is "selfish, arrogant, and stupid." Bingo. Apart from trying to help his parents, everything Rob does is deeply selfish, which makes the author's attempt to introduce narratives at the end of the novel to suggest Rob was somehow a good role model, at least part of the time, an unsupportable assertion. His mother, Jackie, is just about the only person in this biography that I can muster any respect for. I would've been much more interested in reading about her life, and I'm sure it would've been a more rewarding experience for readers.

20 of 24 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Nor'easter
  • 12-08-2015

Profound but lacking

This is a very emotional and sad story. It is well worth listening to but will not provide any insights into why Rob Peace made the very strange decisions that ultimately ended his life. That made the story very lacking for me.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Regina-Audible
  • 02-12-2014

Powerful Narrative Nonfiction

The story of Robert Peace is both heartbreaking and compelling. Written in narrative nonfiction style by Rob’s former Yale roommate Jeff Hobbs, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace documents the life of a brilliant and big-hearted young man that rises from poverty to graduate from the Ivy League – only to struggle to shake the anchor that binds him to the streets of Newark. While the book’s outcome is a given from the title, the gripping narrative voiced by George Newbern leaves you helplessly rooting for Rob throughout every stage.

23 of 29 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Wayne
  • 11-08-2015

Tragic non-fiction

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace about a uniquely intellectually, verbally, and athletically gifted boy born in an urban ghetto near Newark NJ. Despite a superb private secondary school education followed by a full scholarship to Yale where he received a BS degree in microbiology in 4 years, he ends up in the illegal drug business and is murdered at age 30. The story, which is true, is told by his roommate and friend at Yale.

Rob Peace had a mother who continuously sacrificed to give him a better life and a petty criminal father who was imprisoned when Rob was age 7 for murders he likely did not commit. The unasked and unanswered question is, "What more could have been done to help Rob realize his potential?" There are no easy answers, but had marijuana been legal the end situation would certainly been different.

This is a brilliant book. It is also a very sad book.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Phyllis
  • 19-07-2019

Powerful Story

The word “tragic” is hardly strong enough. The sense of impending doom at every step of the story was powerful and deeply disturbing. The author successfully captured the extraordinary potential of this young man, ensuring a palpable sense of loss.

My only quarrel with the book is that the author chose the trite, almost hackneyed phrase a little too often.

The narrator was great with a calm and straightforward style perfectly suited for this narrative.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Emily Marbach
  • 11-10-2015

Haunting Story

I loved this book. I learned a lot about checking one's white privilege. I think the story was well written, well paced and gripping till the end.
The reader was really good but there were a few mispronounced words like "affluent" which was used quite a few times. I'm surprised when the editors, in this digital age, don't catch these mistakes.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful