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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.

©2016 Eli Sanders (P)2016 Penguin Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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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. ...

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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An in-depth view of the flaws in our mental healthcare system

This book was very well researched and written. If you're looking for a fast paced or mystery style crime novel, this isn't it. But if you're interested in character studies, court proceedings, and deep analysis of a multifaceted social problem, this is a detailed and compassionate look at the people involved with a crime that most likely could have been prevented by mental healthcare intervention at any one of multiple points in the deterioration of the perpetrator's mental state.

As someone looking at a career in psychology, this book really hit home for me. There is a desperate need for mental health services in this country, and the lack of them is a direct cause of enormous costs, both financially (in court costs, property damage, and prison housing costs) and in lives. The victims of crimes like this one, as well as the families of perpetrators, and even the perpetrators themselves pay an enormous price for our lack of adequate mental health resources. This book demonstrates that in a detailed account of the instances in which intervention might have made a major difference, and in shedding a broader light on the flaws and gaps in the intersection of our mental healthcare and criminal justice systems.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Teddy
  • AGUA DULCE, CA, United States
  • 05-06-16

well done all around

I was not familiar with either the author, Eli Sanders, or the reader Rene Ruiz hi hope I've spelled these correctly, I can't go check while I write).
I enjoyed the writing; it was researched, friendly. caring and something's had a bit of irony or other comic relief contained within.
The reading was appropriate, sensitive songs....calm. I've found a new reader to look for.
Well done, all 'round.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Heartbreaking

Well written story. Sanders has an amazing ability to humanize what most simply consider statistics. I hope this raises awareness on many fronts.

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Great book!

Loved this book! Amazing story and really well told! Definitely recommend to anyone who likes true crime or is interested in mental health issues in the US.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Excellent, thought provoking!

Thank you for the extraordinary work you put into the writing of this book! I was looking for a true crime non-fiction book to listen to - and ended up with so much more!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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When Mental Illness is left untreated!!!

Would you listen to While the City Slept again? Why?

Yes, The story line had great continuity and the social history impeccable. I work in the social service field after a short stint with criminal justice career.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I think both women were my favorites. The author provided excellent detail about each persons social history and upbringing along with the psychotic killer's past history. The women were a team and represented love, support and commitment.

Which scene was your favorite?

I didn't have a favorite scene, the entire book was a favorite. The narrative was terrific and spell binding. Most books fizzle out upon completion of the legal proceedings, this one went on to describe it's aftermath.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, I could not put it down. I was returning from a trip back home to Pittsburgh, so the trip went by quickly.

Any additional comments?

Easy to listen too and extremely captivating

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great story, not the best narration.

This book goes beyond what a typical true crime tale delivers by humanizing both sides of the case and shining a spotlight on how similar tragedies could be avoided. It was difficult, however, for me to appreciate or lose myself in the details and intricacies due to the narrator's dry, monotone delivery.

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Powerful, provocative and pensive.

An honest and brilliantly written account of all sides of a horrific crime. It's rare to find a reporter so willing to explore the background of victims and criminals alike and to find a survivor with so much strength and courage to fight for justice.