By Ekta R. Garg
September 12, 2012
Rated: Bypass it
In her debut book, Ashes Ashes, The Twins Fall Down, author Pauline L. Hawkins recounts for readers her recollections of the day when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and attempted another attack, resulting in a plane crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, all on September 11, 2001. Hawkins confesses early in the book that before the Sept. 11 attacks, she was content in her own corner of the world in Plano, Texas. After the attacks happened, she decided to become a more informed citizen of the country as well as of the world. While readers may applaud her efforts and enjoy her easygoing style, they might feel disappointed at the book’s inconsistencies of time and one glaring omission.
Hawkins begins her first chapter with the question “Do you remember?” and talks about her drive to work that Tuesday morning, 11 years ago, when she heard about the first plane hitting the first tower. She recalls details indelibly etched in her memory, as that morning most likely is for anyone living in this country at the time. While her style may be more conversational and less focused on the finesse of writing, Hawkins extracts from her readers an emotional response as she recounts the day of the attacks and the confusion, frustration, anger, and helplessness almost everyone felt.
In the rest of the book she works through several issues and stories connected to the attacks—everything from the institution of the Patriot Act to the speculation surrounding how the passengers in the doomed planes could have possibly made cell phone calls to their families on the ground when cell phones supposedly didn’t have as good reception then. She touches on the economy and the influence the attacks had on the financial affairs of the U.S. Hawkins even talks about her former fear of flying and how, despite many of the inconveniences now associated with flying, she appreciates the safety measures in place.
However, one major exclusion will let down and probably confuse readers: in the book, Hawkins talks about Osama bin Laden as though he were still alive. Her chapter on the Sept. 11 mastermind, entitled “Who Is This Osama bin Laden?”, gives readers background on bin Laden’s family and background as well as his rise to power and his previous terrorist activities. The following chapter, “How Do You Capture a Terrorist?”, details many of the early efforts of the U.S. military in the early days to capture bin Laden.
And then in the middle of the latter chapter, Hawkins writes, “After nine years of being hunted, bin Laden is still free today.” After another two pages, she ends the chapter with the following words: “Even if he were captured, tried, and sentenced to death, I am not sure this would come close to what he deserves. My advice to bin Laden: Pray for mercy, and that you never get what you truly deserve.”
Given Hawkins’ assertion early in the book of wanting to become a better-informed citizen, she undermines the entire premise by this major oversight. Other time inconsistencies in the book will keep readers guessing as to when Hawkins actually finished writing her memoir; earlier in the book when she discusses the phone calls made by the passengers on the doomed planes, she says, “The crucial question has been, and is, at what altitude were the planes traveling when these calls were placed? Even almost five years later, no one is actually able to answer this question.” Towards the end of the book Hawkins references an extension to the Patriot Act President Obama signed in May 2011—just weeks after bin Laden’s death.
While readers may applaud Hawkins’ sincerity and her earnest effort at a tribute to those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks, I really wish Hawkins had taken more time to consider and research all angles of her subject matter. Self-publishing the memoir should have given Hawkins complete editorial control on the content as well as the timing of the book’s appearance, and it is unfortunate that she didn’t take more care in preparing her book for the public. Readers who would like to share in Hawkins’ reminiscence might find some value here, but it’s hard to recommend this book because a major portion of it would have been different had Hawkins kept her information up to date.
What the ratings mean:
Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection. It’s definitely worth it!
Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.
Bypass it–Free time is precious. Don’t spend it on this book!