Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Review: The Power of Half by Kevin and Hannah Salwen

Title: The Power of Half: One Family's Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back
Author: Kevin and Hannah Salwen
Pages: 242
Genre: Non-Fiction/ Personal Growth
Source: FSB Associates
Who Recommended Book to Me: Caitlin Price - FSB Senior Publicist (thanks Caitlin!)

Written in tandem by the father-daughter team of Kevin and Hallah Salwen, The Power of Half is the story of one family's life-altering decision and its unexpected results. The Salwens hoped that selling their home would allow them to make things better in a small corner of the world. Little did they expect how much they would gain themselves.

What I didn't like in this book:

  • I know that it wasn't meant to be construed this way, but I didn't really see how going from a 6,500 sq. ft. home to 3250 sq.ft. was such a hardship. Is this the average size of a home in America??? When you write a book like this it leaves you open to criticism and people questioning your reasons and commitment. So I guess that is what I'm doing here in this comment.
  • They were financially able to keep two houses running in regards to a monthly mortgage and upkeep. I applaud that they moved to a smaller house, but honestly where was the "risk" that others will experience if they actually were to do something like this? Again, I didn't feel that by halving the size of their home was a big enough adjustment.....remember, this is my opinion. 

  • How many people in America have the financial resources that this family has? Yes, I know they worked hard for it and I respect them for that. I am just saying that when they ventured into this idea of half they really didn't have to worry about losing anything. I'm afraid with these economic times some people may only see how MUCH they still had even after giving away half, instead of focusing on their idea of helping others.

  • When Kevin mentions a bag, it is an Eddie Bauer bag. When he mentions a shirt it is a Nike Golf shirt....honestly, he should have left the labels out of the description. Why were they included?? I thought the idea of this book was to INCLUDE as many people as possible in this venture and to make them feel as if they too could do something like this. Was it to remind others that he could still afford to buy the nicer things in life, even while giving up a million dollar house?????????????????

Now on to the positive side of things!!! What I did like about this book:

  • Hannah! She is a young lady with a vision and with the guidance of her parents was able to start out with an idea and see it become an actual plan that she could contribute to!

  • Hannah's essays which are included in each chapter. I loved her ideas and the activities she included at the end for ideas to jump start your own plans.

  • Self-reliance is the key to helping others, not handouts!!!!

  • Community- doing this project together as a family brought a sense of well-being to their home. It also showed the children how to bring it to a group of people.

My Final Thoughts:
This was a good book with a lot of great ideas and of course, some criticism from me. None of the criticisms are aimed at the children!! Only to Kevin. I appreciate that he does acknowledge how blessed his family is and I don't feel like he was trying to be uppity about his portfolio and equity, but at times it just seemed to rub me the wrong way. I applaud this family for putting this small seed of an idea into motion and with all of their hard work seeing it blossom into a Giving Tree!!! I found myself being inspired by Hannah and will be keeping my copy to read again and to see how my family may be able to incorporate some ideas from the  Power of Half lifestyle, especially in terms of service and giving to others.

$1 of each copy sold will be donated 
to Rebuilding Together, serving America's
low-income home-owners and providing
critical repairs at no charge to those with the greatest need. 
For more information, visit Rebuilding Together.

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@Barrie Summy


  1. Nice review with the positives and negatives!

    Good point about how going from a 6,500 sq. ft. home to 3250 sq.ft. can't be such a hardship; it's still a nice amount of space. But when you consider that most people who have a lot would never do this, I think it is admirable that they did it for the reasons they did. Still, it makes me feel better that they are donating part of the proceeds instead of finding yet new ways to have more!

  2. You often review books I have never heard of. Thank you. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this book.

  3. i would probably have a real hard time liking this book based on how u describe my home is only HALF the size of the smaller one they went too!! LOL!!! I struggled for years years years being a single mom to adam and then bought the house i'm in now all on my own!! lol!!! i would be so excited to have a house that big! lol! :):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):)

  4. I liked the way you pointed out the sort of things writers don't always realize. Recently read the Norah Ephron book about her chin. And when she said she used a shopping bag instead of a traditional purse, it made me so mad I couldn't finish the book. Only someone with her money, and her designed clothes or haircut could do such a thing.

  5. I haven't read this, but I think I would share your feelings.

  6. I heard about this family in a TV segment and thought it sounded like an interesting idea. It did sound like it wasn't that much of a hardship to move to a smaller house, from the story I heard. It sounds like many of the ideas are good ones but they had the means to make their changes be more comfortable. Interesting! I appreciated your honest take on the book.

  7. I am so glad that you read this and reviewed it honestly. It is amazing what others can see as cutting back. This isn't the first book that I have read or heard of that is somewhat out of proportion with the reality that many face. It is sad really, because what they say is so important. The thing is, if you are going to say that you are stepping down or making sacrifices, you need to really do that.

    Cheers to anyone making a difference in other peoples lives though!

  8. It is good that they tried to help others, but I agree that it sounds like they really had it made and weren't put out too bad when they had to downsize their house.

  9. sounds like the parents suffer from a bad case of unacknowledged economic privilege :\ Well, they probably do acknowledge it to some extent, but not fully- And that's too bad.

  10. Yuck! Geez Louise, huge houses! Not exactly the simple life, eh?

  11. Doesn't sound like much of a hardship when they were able to maintain both houses which compared to my 1200 sq ft house are huge. Thanks for sharing.

  12. I heard Kevin speak and found him really inspiring. I do agree with you that it's easier to make sacrifices when you have so much. I'm looking forward to reading the book.

  13. I liked how you listed the positive things you enjoyed about the book as well as the negatives. I just started reading this one, so am curious if Kevin annoys me as well.

    Great job!

  14. What a fabulous review, thanks, Stacy!

    In response to others' comments that it must be easier to give more when you have more to begin with, I say: not necessarily. (I say this mainly to be contrary.)

    Looking at per capita giving from wealthy and poor communities, often poorer communities are more generous. Why is that? I think it's easy for people who have some to get caught up in materialism (witness Kevin's fondness for labels) and keeping up with neighbors' expectations. It's easy to get a skewed idea of what we "need" versus what we "want."

    Sure going from a mansion to a house twice the size of mine doesn't sound like much of a hardship to me. But we bought this house in the first place to be responsible stewards (some of our friends chided us for buying something "so small"). I'm sure the changes this family made will have a significant impact on the children, and hopefully a reverberating impact on the parents, too, going forward. Just thinking of what they have as "more than enough" rather than "not quite enough" is a huge change in mindset for many Americans.

  15. I'm with you. I cannot really see how moving into a 3250 sq ft house could be a hardship. Unless mayber you are the Duggar family. That is huge!

  16. Hmm. I'm pretty sure Kevin has no idea how he came off since it sounds like he was trying to do a good thing. Your review does have me curious.

  17. Thanks for such a balanced review, Staci. I agree with you about self-reliance being the key to helping others. I couldn't agree more.

  18. At first I wasn't going to read this review because I also received this book. But then my eye caught some of the negatives at the beginning and I was hooked until the end. Now I can't wait to read my copy. This was a terrific review.

  19. I agree with you, some people are really out of touch with main stream america. I really enjoyed reading your evaluation of this book.


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