Robert Peace was born in a ghetto outside Newark colloquially known as "Illtown." His unwed mother worked long hours in a hospital kitchen. His charismatic father would later be arrested for murder. Peace's intellectual brilliance and determination earned him a full scholarship to Yale University. While majoring in molecular biophysics and biochemistry, he straddled the world of academia and the world of the street, never revealing his full self in either. Upon graduation from Yale, he went home to teach at the Catholic high school he'd attended, slid into the drug trade, and was brutally murdered at age 30.
That's the short version of Robert Peace's life. The long version, the complete version, is this remarkable tour de force by Jeff Hobbs, a talented young novelist who was Peace's college roommate. Hobbs attended Peace's funeral, reached out to his friends from both Yale and Newark, and ultimately decided to write this harrowing and beautiful account of his life.
What does the haunting, untimely death of one man mean? Robert Peace's life doesn't reduce to easy sociological constructions. Hobbs's incisive prose shows the difficulty of moving between the place Peace was born into and the one his abilities allowed him to enter. We see him work, love, fail, succeed, give to others, care for his mother, travel, and dream. We are witness to the decisions he made for himself and the ones that life forced upon him. Most of all, we are irrevocably changed by the fascinating, devastating, and unforgettable life of Robert Peace.