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"The Boys in the Bunkhouse" could be a cold story with shock value to jazz it up. Instead, it's an elegantly written story of flesh-and-blood men caught in a disgusting and deplorable situation. You get to know the men, their dreams and fears. Mostly, they dream of families, though phone numbers they have are long since disconnected; of retirement in a lovely home that their wages built in Texas; of ownership of tiny things most of us take for granted. And they fear their supervisors and people letting them down yet again.
While the book chronicles the hardcore nature of the jobs they do, the abusive environments they work and live in, their horrific physical ailments, it comes off as neither detached nor sensationalized. They're simply facts of year in, year out reality for the men.
The tragedy is that complaints started as early as 1974, and actions could have been taken time and time again. Yet somewhere along the way, people forgot that the "Henry Boys" were living, feeling human beings. And while there is wonderment that the people of Atalissa never spoke up... or noticed... that things were very wrong comes off as purely believable given the even-handed writing of Dan Barry. This is truly one of the most powerful books I've listened to in a long time.
At times, Sanders' delivery is dry, but at least he has the voice of a skilled documentarian. I never stopped feeling outrage, sadness, heartbreak, joy.
Very much worth the time, very much worth the credit.
5 of 7 people found this review helpful
This book is valuable only if we think about the situation it describes thoroughly and circumspectly. While there is no question that the men in this story were taken advantage of, there is hardly a mentally challenged person walking on this earth who will avoid that altogether. The danger of stories like this lies in society's overreaction. Before hating these particular abusers one would do well to study the long term effects of deinstitutionalization and how it has contributed to homelessness. Mentally handicapped people can be a danger to themselves and the public. Part of the problem is that so few high quality people will deign to work with this class. Providing these people with honest jobs is better than allowing them to fend for themselves or be forever on the dehumanizing dole. This situation clearly got out of hand but a similar program that included watchfulness and socially accepted standards for health and well-being of the persons would go a long way toward giving the disabled the dignity that so often eludes them.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful