Rating – 4/5 stars
Date Finished – July 26, 2017
60/120 in 2017
Publication Date – 2016
Matthew Desmond has done a truly remarkable amount of research – this book is absolutely full of detail, but it never loses sight of the humans who Desmond is writing about. It’s so easy to view an issue like housing insecurity in terms of facts and statistics, forgetting about the on-the-ground reality of people’s lives. Desmond keeps the reader focused, and coveys an incredible amount of information while never allowing you to forget that the real issue is the family standing on the sidewalk with all of their belongings, nowhere to go.
At times, the book does drag – and for me, jumping around between households and landlords without much warning or obvious reason became a little taxing. It wasn’t always clear that we would or wouldn’t see a person again, and I struggled to keep everyone straight in my head.
I appreciated that Desmond spent so much time with the landlords in order to help us understand the forces that motivate them to evict tenants and continue to rent out substandard housing. Landlords are allowed and even encouraged to evict tenants as quickly as possible, and in many cases, to take advantage of their vulnerability. This wouldn’t be a complete piece of work without their perspective, and it further drives home the point that this is a broken system that is simultaneously helping some and hurting others.
It’s a difficult task to take huge issues like eviction rates, affordable housing, and housing insecurity, and write an informative (and not short) book that connects the reader to the people and families affected by those issues. Desmond does this, and it was an absolute pleasure to read.