Given my voracious reading about Obama to this point, I never expected this book to actually give any new biographical information. It's an account from his childhood right on up to the time before the election, and I was delighted to learn a wealth of new information.
I found this book gave a much broader view of Obama's father's side of the family than what I've read before. His father, Barack Obama, Sr., was married multiple times...married when he took up with Obama's mother, Ann, as a matter of fact. Polygamy was not unusual in Kenya, and Obama's mother seemed not to have much of a problem with it at first. It was unclear to me if Obama, Sr.'s marriage would've been considered legal in the U.S., but ultimately Ann would have a big problem with the situation and the distance between the two as Obama, Sr. left her in Hawaii to pursue a PhD on the east coast. I was also unaware just how many half brothers and sisters Obama has in Africa, and it was nice to learn more about his relationships with those relatives.
Given the ongoing excitement about Obama since the 2004 Democratic National Convention I expected this book to be mostly roses and daisies. Ultimately I found it a very fair account of his life in politics including his failings and flounderings along the way. The book was quick to point out his underdog status in the early stages of the primaries when Obama's lack of experience was expected to be a detriment to his campaign.
One of the meatiest and most telling portions of the book is a collection of essays about Obama from some fantastic writers including Gay Talese, Charles Johnson, Melissa Fay Greene, Andrei Codrescu, Fay Weldon, Richard Norton Smith, Bob Greene, and others. They're dense, they're funny, they're thoughtful. They're all very telling and make a nice accompaniment to Obama's life in pictures.
If you're in the market for a keepsake or a deeper understanding of the life of our 44th President, I would highly recommend this book for the stunning photos, quality construction, and the story between the covers. You'll have a nice souvenir and a good biography.
This is my first book for the U.S. Presidents Reading Project.