Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 403
Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model for America's Future by Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, can be considered a manifesto as much as an autobiography. Buttigieg became the youngest mayor in the United States when he was elected in 2012, and his youthful energy is evident in the book's style of writing. His voice is engaging, sometimes humorous, though the topics the book covers are quite serious: the housing crisis, political tensions, and economic stagnation and revitalization.
While the book mainly centers on the young politician's initiative to revert South Bend, Indiana, into an economically vibrant city, the book also details Buttigieg's personal journeys through academia, politics, and tours in Afghanistan with the Navy. The book also touches on Buttigieg's sexuality and how he had to overcome homophobia, advice that he should not come out as an openly gay politician, and the inner turmoil he felt growing up.
Despite having a stellar academic track record and traveling around the world—even working a high-paying corporate job at one of the world's largest management firms—Buttigieg decided to return home. This theme of returning home to do what he feels is necessary is a recurring theme throughout the memoir. Revitalizing "home" is what sums up Buttigieg's personal and political goal. The area Buttigieg is from is considered part of the Rust Belt—a region in the Midwest that has suffered economic droughts after major industries closed their doors during the latter half of the twentieth century—and Buttigieg took it upon himself to help revitalize it. Buttigieg believes that economically revitalizing on a micro-local level—in this case, in South Bend, Indiana, and the surrounding Rust Belt—is a blueprint for a new national economic initiative.
Economics is not the only aspect of society that Buttigieg is concerned with, however. As a young upstart in the Democratic Party, Buttigieg displays his attentiveness toward social issues as well. For instance, the seemingly minor act of renaming a particular street after Martin Luther King Jr. is a symbolic gesture to bring harmony to the citizenry at a time when racial politics are extremely tense. This level of maturity and example of good leadership is seen throughout the book.
Buttigieg's autobiography, which offers insight on various innovative economic programs, can also be considered a campaign book, as its release coincided with Buttigieg's announcement to run as a Democratic candidate in the 2020 presidential election.