Monday, September 23, 2013

Review: The Mole People by Jennifer Toth

Title: The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City
Author: Jennifer Toth
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Publish Date: October 1, 1993
Source: Library

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a non-fiction fan.
  • You don't mind tough subjects.
What's the Story?:

From "Thousands of people live in the subway, railroad, and sewage tunnels that form the bowels of New York City. This book is about them, the so-called mole people, living alone and in communities, in subway tunnels and below subway platforms. It is about how and why people move underground, who they are, and what they have to say about their lives and the "topside” world they’ve left behind.

My Two Cents:

"The Mole People" is a fascinating book about the people who live in the tunnels of New York City. Who knew that there was so much under the city? Ms. Toth follows various people who live in the tunnels to see what their life is like.

This book is mainly made up of Toth's various observations. She doesn't really seem to fully integrate herself into the tunnel community (which may have made for a more compelling story) but she does at least develop a modicum of trust with several members of some of the sub-groups of the tunnel dwellers. This is still very much an outsider's account of this group of people. Toth also focuses a lot on her feelings about what's going on and at some points, I thought it would have been interesting for her to go a little more in depth and make greater connections and "take away points" (for lack of a better term) about these people. The observations are certainly interesting and definitely kept me reading though.

The organization of the book is also a little interesting. There are a lot of times when Toth refers to something, doesn't expand on the idea, and then says that she will be talking about later in the book but sometimes it's much later and therefore it becomes a little bit distracting because then you're thinking about what she could possibly be talking about a couple chapters later.

The subject matter really carries the book and although I had some issues with the organization and the way it was written, the subject matter is absolutely fascinating. It definitely whet my appetite to read more on this subject in the future.

This book is approximately 20 years old and I found myself wondering if there are still people that live in the tunnels of NYC. My guess is that there are just because if it is accessible, I would think that people still live there.


1 comment:

  1. A friend of mine told me about this book years ago, but I've never gotten around to it. Such a fascinating topic. Thanks for the great review!


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