While the City Slept

  • by Eli Sanders
  • Narrated by Rene Ruiz
  • 9 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter's gripping account of one young man's path to murder - and a wake-up call for mental health care in America.
On a summer night in 2009, three lives intersected in one American neighborhood. Two people newly in love - Teresa Butz and Jennifer Hopper, who spent many years trying to find themselves and who eventually found each other - and a young man on a dangerous psychological descent: Isaiah Kalebu, age 23, the son of a distant, authoritarian father and a mother with a family history of mental illness. All three paths forever altered by a violent crime, all three stories a wake-up call to the system that failed to see the signs.
In this riveting, probing, compassionate account of a murder in Seattle, Eli Sanders, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his newspaper coverage of the crime, offers a deeply reported portrait in microcosm of the state of mental health care in this country - as well as an inspiring story of love and forgiveness. Culminating in Kalebu's dangerous slide toward violence - observed by family members, police, mental health workers, lawyers, and judges, but stopped by no one - While the City Slept is the story of a crime of opportunity and of the string of missed opportunities that made it possible. It shows what can happen when a disturbed member of society repeatedly falls through the cracks and, in the tradition of The Other Wes Moore and The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, is an indelible, human-level story, brilliantly told, with the potential to inspire social change.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Tragedy and hope

If you could sum up While the City Slept in three words, what would they be?

Horrific, inspiring, and illuminating.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Not that kind of a story. All the characters are (were) real people, many of whom were likable and admirable. I could never choose a favorite in this story.

Have you listened to any of Rene Ruiz’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No. But I think this narration was excellent, somehow combining compassion with a matter of fact presentation of the facts.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

The insanity of the American treatment system for the mentally ill.

Any additional comments?

This is an eye-opening, honest, and thoroughly researched investigative book relating a horrific incident of violence. Sadly, the attack on Teresa Butz and Jennifer Hopper is only one of a great many incidents of senseless violence perpetrated by crazy, enraged people who in most cases have fallen between the very wide cracks in the US mental health system. The author carefully tells the life stories of Teresa, Jennifer and their assailant, Isaiah. The author describes Isaiah's abusive upbringing and the dearth of mental health resources and laws necessary to restrain and treat him before he began performing acts of violence. The trial is described in detail, as is the verdict and its aftermath. I admire both Teresa and Jennifer hugely, as well as some of the law enforcement personnel involved in their case. I agree that the mental health system needs a major overhaul and adequate funding. Until there is a system in place to treat those at early risk for mental illness, until there are laws that require the mentally ill to stay on their medications, and until adequately staffed institutions are established to contain and restrain those who will not comply, tragedies will continue to happen. Over the past nearly half a century, our country's mental health system went from locked institutions where the mentally ill were warehoused, to the opposite state--abandoning the mentally ill on the street, and allowing them the "right" to refuse what little treatment was available. Tell me, which system is crazier? Many people will benefit from early treatment. Those who do not, and who cross the line and perform horrific acts, should never again be allowed the freedom to harm people. It's tragic that Isaiah suffered abuse and neglect from his father early in his life. But that can't be the sole origin of his problems. Several family members on his mother's side were schizophrenic. It's equally tragic that Isaiah did not receive help when it might have made the greatest difference. Tragic--but in this case, water under the bridge. Having listened to this book, I think that Isaiah knew what he was doing when he attacked and killed Teresa Butz and attacked Jennifer. I can't help feeling relieved that he will be in prison for the rest of his life.

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- Gotta Tellya "KEC"

Deserves the prize

The writing in this book is amazing-complete, respectful of all people concerned, and lots of relevant facts.

As with many substance-based Audible books, though, I would like to see the Audible book come with a PDF with sources--and in the case, with some of the statistics Sanders gives in the last chapter. Guess I'll have to check the book out of the public library. ...
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- Diana D.

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-02-2016
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio