I love reading about Eastern Orthodoxy, scripture, and nonfiction works that challenge me to expand my view of the world.
T.W. Trenkle, The Kings of the Narrow Gate (Dubuque: King's Gate Books, 2014). Pp. 244. Paperback $19.95.
This book tells the story of the author's true experience of poverty, racism, and homelessness in Dubuque, IA. Dubuque has branded itself as the "Masterpiece on the Mississippi," and it has even won some national "best city" awards. However, the author wrote this book to show that Dubuque has a long ways to go to live up to this idealized version of itself.
The book centers around a pawn shop in Dubuque that gives away free food to the homeless. Each chapter tells someone's story, and how they've struggled with poverty, racism, homelessness, drugs, murder, or tough luck. Some of these stories are very moving, and the author does a very good job at exposing the dark side of Dubuque. I believe the author's intent at exposing this side of Dubuque was to raise awareness in hopes of getting these people some help. Only the future will tell if this book produces the changes needed to make a better society for everyone.
The reason I gave this book 2 stars was due to the writing style (which makes the book very difficult to read), and the many grammatical problems within the book. For example, the author uses a lot of metaphors, so much so that they loose meaning and impact.
The author also likes to tell his stories through the voices of other people. Often each chapter is a conversation that the author overheard between a group of people at the pawn shop. However, each time the author fails to give the reader the necessary, or sufficient, background information. Thus the reader is left in the dark trying to figure out what the conversation is about.
A few of the stories also lack chronological coherence. The author will start a story, jump forward in time, then, without warning, jump back in time. This often leaves the reader confused as to what exactly is happening. Twice I had to look up the events the author was describing in archived editions of the Telegraph Herald (Dubuque's newspaper) in order to understand.
Finally, this edition lacks basic editing. There are a few places where the line ends in the middle of a sentence, and then picks up in the next paragraph. There are also simple grammatical mistakes (e.g., "CD's" when he means "CDs," or "1930's" when he means "1930s").
I think with a good editor, this book could be very powerful in getting the stories of Dubuque's poor out in the world.