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A Case for Solomon: Bobby Dunbar and the…

A Case for Solomon: Bobby Dunbar and the Kidnapping That Haunted a Nation

by Tal McThenia, Margaret Dunbar Cutright (Author)

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The story of Bobby Dunbar is remarkable for many reasons and it is told sometimes brilliantly, and sometimes painfully slowly, in "A Case for Solomon."
The details here can be exceptionally tedious; it's as though the writer wants to make use of every single bit of research he unearthed (and his research is, indeed, impressive). The problem is that it makes for text that feels heavy, just one small step above an entry in an encyclopedia. Scenes that the reader is waiting for, that offer critical information about the story, are long and labored and become dreary instead of exciting. (Imagine watching a marathon and, in the last minutes having to see it in slow motion, and also hearing at the same time information about the kinds of shoes the runner is wearing, and where he bought his clothing, and his favorite foods.) The details about the role of the newspapers could make a book in themselves, and are rarely all that compelling.
Most people know the results of the DNA tests, so there are no great revelations here. But I still picked up this book because I wanted to know more about the family, and especially about the man who grew up as Bobby Dunbar.
I loved the beginning and the end, and many parts in the middle. If only this book had had a competent editor it could have been masterful. ( )
  Eliz12 | Apr 13, 2013 |
This is one of those books that sticks with you for a while. I was horrified to learn the role the press played in this whole fiasco. We really have not learned from past mistakes. When Bobby Dunbar went missing, no stone was left unturned. Yet when a boy was found who was similar in looks, the press was there to “get the story”. I felt like they were willing to make the story fit a happy ending no matter what.
My sympathies went to Julia Anderson who had no resources due to her financial circumstances. I was pleased to learn the truth had been found but saddened by the pain everyone involved in this case suffered. The authors have done a tremendous amount of research and have successfully told the story in a way that carried the reader along, making them want to know what happened next.

We are given a look at the time period and how things worked for those who had and those had not. In this day and age we have the benefit of DNA testing. Yet I wonder how much the press would be able to skew the opinions of all parties involved. It is sad that so many lives have been destroyed. Yet I feel that a mystery was left unanswered in this story. I don’t know if anyone will ever solve that mystery. This is definitely worth the read. ( )
  skstiles612 | Aug 13, 2012 |
As someone who is intimately attached to this story (I am married to the grandson of the boy who is the focus of this book) I have to admit, the writing did nothing for me. I was aware there was a story about the blood of the man who is known as Bobby Dunbar. I was aware it was a huge piece of news at the time, becoming a national story. But I also knew that the blood running through the man's veins did not impact who he was as a husband or a father.

The writing of this book was stilted and dense. I found it tough to get through, as there were so many pieces of data that were incorporated into the narrative. Perhaps that makes it a stronger non-fiction book, delving into the nitty gritty of a story that rocked communities and families intimately. However, it also means that the audience for this book today, is small and intimate and will likely not reach a much wider piece of the population.

To be fair, I am generally a lover of fiction, where the theme is the key, not the evidence. Though, when I do reach for non-fiction, the thesis statement is something I generally look for, and I could not find it in the amassed pile of references here. Perhaps I didn't dig enough, or pay enough attention. I'll take some ownership of the disconnect between myself and the book. ( )
  HippieLunatic | Apr 29, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
McThenia, TalAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cutright, Margaret DunbarAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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A CASE FOR SOLOMON: BOBBY DUNBAR AND THE KIDNAPPING THAT HAUNTED A NATION chronicles one of the most celebrated?and most misunderstood?kidnapping cases in American history. In 1912, four-year-old Bobby Dunbar, the son of an upper-middle-class Louisiana family, went missing in the swamps. After an eight-month search that electrified the country and destroyed Bobby?s parents, the boy was found, filthy and hardly recognizable, in the pinewoods of southern Mississippi. A wandering piano tuner who had been shuttling the child throughout the region by wagon for months was arrested and charged with kidnapping?a crime that was punishable by death at the time. But when a destitute single mother came forward from North Carolina to claim the boy as her son, not Bobby Dunbar, the case became a high-pitched battle over custody?and identity?that divided the South. Amid an ever-thickening tangle of suspicion and doubt, two mothers and a father struggled to assert their rightful parenthood over the child, both to the public and to themselves. For two years, lawyers dissected and newspapers sensationalized every aspect of the story. Psychiatrists, physicians, criminologists, and private detectives debated the piano tuner?s guilt and the boy?s identity. And all the while the boy himself remained peculiarly guarded on the question of who he was. It took nearly a century, a curiosity that had been passed down through generations, and the science of DNA to discover the truth. A Case for Solomon is a gripping historical mystery, distilled from a trove of personal and archival research. The story of Bobby Dunbar, fought over by competing New Orleans tabloids, the courts, and the citizenry of two states, offers a case study in yellow journalism, emergent forensic science, and criminal justice in the turn-of-the-century American South. It is a drama of raw poverty and power and an expos of how that era defined and defended motherhood, childhood, and community. First told in a stunning episode of National Public Radio?s This American Life, A Case for Solomon chronicles the epic struggle to determine one child?s identity, along the way probing unsettling questions about the formation of memory, family, and self.… (more)

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