This is a very well researched story of the young Barack Obama, his father, Kenyon Barack Obama Sr. (whose brilliance was compromised by arrogance and alcohol), his mother Anne, (who gave him the genes of an explorer of life, as an escapee from Kansas ), and the before-Michelle women in his life (notably, all white). It not only digs much deeper into his early life than Obama's "Dreams from My Father", it also spends a lot of time (too much I think) correcting and explaining the 1995 autobiography, which was a work of art, but by Obama's own admission played fast and loose with timelines and characters. The theme of the book is how, through a first class education, life experiences in Hawaii, Indonesia, Kenya, California, New York, and Chicago, Barack Obama became the person he is today, with the brilliance and ambition of his father, and the compassion infused fix-the-world-spirit of his mother.
Obama's mother's Midwest roots did not come from exactly an ideal white picket fence family, and included a grandmother who committed suicide, a father who was a big talker, but could not hold a job, and a mother who worked - something unheard of in Kansas, until WW II made it more necessary and then respectable. Moving many times for father to find a new job, and gradually moving west, they all ended up in Hawaii where Obama's mother briefly married his father from Kenya and bore him, then married an Indonesian and moved with Barack to Jakarta. Barack later went back to school in Hawaii, and on from there to Occidental, Columbia, and eventually to Harvard, where his father also studied.
His Father from Kenya was recognized by everyone he knew as exceptionally brilliant, but somewhat arrogant and difficult to deal with. He did have great charisma especially with women and attracted many women, several of them white, providing Barack Obama, his only namesake, with many half brothers and sisters. Although Barack Sr. did become an important man in the government of Kenya, he never achieved his full potential because of drinking and womanizing, and eventually was killed in a single car accident.
It was made clear in the book that Barack Obama Sr. was never a Moslem, even though his father was a nominal one, and Obama's mother was essentially an atheist, while respecting all religions and committed to helping others through such activities as her job with Ford Foundation. Obama came to the Christian religion after working with Black ministers in Chicago between his graduation from Columbia and his enrolling in Harvard.
This is mostly a 5 star book. However, there were a few disappointments. The main one was the abrupt end of the book at the point where Obama, after visiting Kenya left his Chicago organizing job to enter Harvard, with only a brief mention of two very important portions of his life - his mother's untimely death, and his courtship and winning of Michelle (after having relationships with three white women during his college years). Another weak point, in my opinion was the long and detailed account of Obama's second serious girl friend during his Columbia days - this apparently due mostly to the fact that the author had access to her journal. Also it was a little disconcerting for the author to concentrate so much space on how his account of Barack's life differs from Barack's own account, which Obama admitted contained composite characters and modified timelines for the purpose of better story flow.
That said, I learned a lot about many things in reading this well researched book, and highly recommend it to all who want to know more about this unusual man, the first Black President of the United States.