Summary and book reviews of While the City Slept by Eli Sanders

While the City Slept

A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man's Descent into Madness

by Eli Sanders

While the City Slept by Eli Sanders X
While the City Slept by Eli Sanders
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2016, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2017, 336 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
James Broderick

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

A Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter's gripping account of one young man's path to murder - and a wake-up call for mental health care in America

On a summer night in 2009, three lives intersected in one American neighborhood. Two people newly in love - Teresa Butz and Jennifer Hopper, who spent many years trying to find themselves and who eventually found each other - and a young man on a dangerous psychological descent: Isaiah Kalebu, age twenty-three, the son of a distant, authoritarian father and a mother with a family history of mental illness. All three paths forever altered by a violent crime, all three stories a wake-up call to the system that failed to see the signs.

In this riveting, probing, compassionate account of a murder in Seattle, Eli Sanders, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his newspaper coverage of the crime, offers a deeply reported portrait in microcosm of the state of mental health care in this country - as well as an inspiring story of love and forgiveness. Culminating in Kalebu's dangerous slide toward violence - observed by family members, police, mental health workers, lawyers, and judges, but stopped by no one - While the City Slept is the story of a crime of opportunity and of the string of missed opportunities that made it possible. It shows what can happen when a disturbed member of society repeatedly falls through the cracks, and in the tradition of The Other Wes Moore and The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, is an indelible, human-level story, brilliantly told, with the potential to inspire social change.

Excerpt
While the City Slept

Up the block, where South Rose Street intersects with Eighth Avenue South, Israel Rodriguez was watching his eighteenth birthday party wind down. His actual birthday had come three days earlier, but the celebration was postponed in order to take advantage of a fast-arriving Saturday night. Now it was 3:00 a.m. on the Sunday after that Saturday night. Israel stood on the sidewalk outside his family's home, lit a cigarette, and smoked it near the spot where roots of a large maple tree had cracked and raised the concrete on a scale not normally seen in a city accustomed to sidewalks rearranged by tree roots. Here, the whorled roots had created a small mountain of vaulting cement whose peak passersby were forced to ascend and then descend. As Israel pulled on the cigarette, he, too, heard glass breaking. The sound seemed to come from the direction of the dead end on South Rose Street, and his mind identified it as a window being smashed. Israel found this odd ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Every public official in a position to effect change in the mental health system ought to read this book and reflect deeply on its lessons. The rest of us can simply be moved to the tears summoned by the enduring love, tentative hope, and inconsolable pain of this searing human tragedy.   (Reviewed by James Broderick).

Full Review (923 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Drawing on interviews with principal figures and their families, Sanders’s meticulous narrative gives full weight to Kalebu’s crime while elucidating the human tragedy that sparked it, forming a disturbing indictment of society’s neglect of the mentally ill.

Booklist
Starred Review. A page-turning indictment of a perfect storm of preventable events. Handled with delicacy and delivered with a powerful sense of both dismay and compassion, Sanders offers an unflinching portrait of the human casualties of one city's and, by extrapolation, our country's overburdened health-care and judicial systems.

Library Journal
Starred Review. Astonishing ... Pair with Jill Leovy's Ghettoside for powerful ... analysis of the failures of our criminal justice system.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. An exceptional story of compelling interest in a time of school shootings, ethnic and class strife, and other unbound expressions of madness and illness ... The author's opening pages are among the most immediate and breathtaking in modern true-crime literature, as evocative as any moment of In Cold Blood or Helter Skelter.

Author Blurb Sister Helen Prejean, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dead Man Walking
An inspiring account that leaves the reader with a profound appreciation for our responsibility to one another.

Author Blurb Jeff Hobbs, New York Times bestselling author of The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace
A devastatingly preventable crime is at the center of this book, and yet it is the love, courage, and empathy of the people involved - and of the author - that stay with you. Written with great sensitivity and even greater beauty, it is about so many things: a city, childhood, family, failure, loss, horror, forgiveness. It is, very nearly, about everything.

Author Blurb Dan Zak, author of The Prophets of Oak Ridge
The great achievement of this book is that it shows how any crime is ultimately a failure of systems and of citizens, and that to some degree we are all complicit when a person who needs help is cast aside. To show empathy for a criminal, especially a criminal who has committed such a violent act, ennobles the process and purpose of journalism.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Kendra's Law

While the City Slept is a searing indictment of the mental health system in the United States, showing step-by-step how the failure of an overworked, underfunded bureaucracy led to a likely preventable human tragedy.

Mental Health Among the many challenges communities face is in ensuring that those experiencing mental illness get proper treatment. In most states, merely presenting symptoms is not enough. In fact, more often than not, unless the person has demonstrated violent behavior, nothing can be done to compel treatment. However, in 1999, New York State lawmakers approved "Kendra's Law," which has since been hailed by many professionals as a breakthrough in the way states administer mental health services.

Kendra's Law – named after ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked While the City Slept, try these:

  • The Good Mothers jacket

    The Good Mothers

    by Alex Perry

    Published 2018

    About this book

    More books by this author

    The electrifying, untold story of the women born into the most deadly and obscenely wealthy of the Italian mafias – and how they risked everything to bring it down.

  • Evicted jacket

    Evicted

    by Matthew Desmond

    Published 2017

    About this book

    From Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond, a landmark work of scholarship and reportage that will forever change the way we look at poverty in America

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Small Fry
    Small Fry
    by Lisa Brennan-Jobs
    Small Fry is the debut memoir from Lisa Brennan-Jobs, long-time journalist and writer, and oldest ...
  • Book Jacket: The Winter Soldier
    The Winter Soldier
    by Daniel Mason
    Imagine the thousands of confounding cases doctors face routinely for which diagnoses are hard to ...
  • Book Jacket: Brother
    Brother
    by David Chariandy
    Brother is the brief, moving account of how a single, tragic moment in time can alter the course of ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Islamic Enlightenment
    by Christopher de Bellaigue
    In this comprehensive and well-researched history, de Bellaigue examines the evolution of Islamic ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Removes by Tatjana Soli

A powerful, transporting novel about the addictive intensity and freedom of the American frontier.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Sold on a Monday
    by Kristina McMorris

    An unforgettable novel inspired by a stunning piece of history.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Clockmaker's Daughter

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

A rich, spellbinding new novel from the author of The Lake House. On sale Oct 9.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T Turn T S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.