What we learn about Barack Obama’s father is more than just the fact he was a brilliant economics student who managed to gain acceptance to graduate school at the University of Hawaii. He may have had a Muslim name, but was actually an atheist. In fact, his family had much more influence from Christian missionaries than any Muslim teachings. He was also quite a ladies man who apparently had no problem with polygamy. He was already married with two children in Kenya when he met and married Stanley Ann (a fact he never mentioned to her).
When our future president finally appears in the story it is not surprising that he grows up conflicted and constantly trying to find himself. After all, he was raised by a single mother and his maternal grandparents, and only saw his father once in his life (when he was 10).
Obama spent some of his formative years with his mother in Indonesia and the rest being with his grandparents in Honolulu. He went to a prestigious private school, but was not rich. Being biracial, it was hard to know how to identify himself. Although there were many children of mixed races in Hawaii, the natives didn’t exactly welcome them with open arms.
As could be expected, Obama decided to come to the mainland after high school and attend college at Occidental in Los Angeles. A big city was a way to possibly connect with his African-American heritage.
He didn’t fully find it there and transferred to Columbia in New York City after two years. It wasn’t until he found a job as a community organizer in Chicago that he felt he found his niche in life.
The book ends with his acceptance to Harvard Law School where he hoped to eventually make a greater impact on the lives of others. It does not cover his political career at all, but rather how he evolved into the person he came to be. Maraniss simply tries to connect the dots of the complicated life of a complicated man.