The Power of Half: One Family's Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back

Kevin Salwen and Hannah Salwen

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,  February 2010

It all started when 14-year old Hannah Salwen, idealistic but troubled by a growing sense of injustice in the world, had a eureka moment when a homeless man in her neighborhood was juxtaposed against a glistening Mercedes coupe. "You know, Dad," she said, pointing, "If that man had a less nice car, that man there could have a meal."

This glaring disparity led the Salwen family of four, caught up like so many other Americans in this age of consumption and waste, to follow Hannah's urge to do something, to finally just do something. And so they embarked on an incredible journey together from which there would be no turning back. They decided to sell their Atlanta mansion, downsize to a house half its size, and give half of their profits to a worthy charity. At first it was an outlandish scheme. "What, are you crazy? No way!" Then it was a challenge. "We are TOTALLY doing this." Each week they met over dinner to discuss their plan. It would transport them across the globe and well out of their comfort zone. Along the way they would inspire so many others wrestling with the same questions: Do I give enough? How much is enough? How can I make an impact in the world? In the end the Salwens' journey would bring them closer as a family, as they discovered, together, that half could be so much more.

Warm, funny, deeply moving and wholly uplifting, The Power of Half is the story of how one family slammed the door on the status quo and threw away the key.

For their family project, the Salwen family is investing in the Hunger Project. For more information about that project and how you can create your own, visit

$1 of each copy sold will be donated to Rebuilding Together, serving America's low-income home-owners and providing critical repairs at no charge to those with the greatest need. For more information, visit

hardcover | ISBN: 9780547248066 | Publication Date: February 2010

"Hannah, you rock!"
--Ann Curry, The Today Show
"Mixing humor, inspiration and self-reflection, The Power of Half will give you a whole new perspective on your life. You can't help but recommit to the values you want to share with your children. And you'll be reminded that your kids have much to teach you, too."
--Jeffrey Zaslow, coauthor of The Last Lecture
"The Power of Half is a story of generosity become realized -- a family's unpretentious, morally introspective life becomes a kind of lived enactment and fulfillment of an old ethical and spiritual imperative: that in giving we receive. In a sense, then, this is an account of kindness toward others become a family's fateful self-blessing and destiny (and for the rest of us a chain of events to behold, earnestly consider, and take to heart)."
--Dr. Robert Coles
"Americans are the world's most generous people, but, as The Power of Half shows, the Salwen family is lifting hearts in a new way. Not Carnegie, Gates, or the United Way. Sports mom, Little League dad, YouTube-addicted son, and 14-year-old 'Hey Dude' daughter are pilgrims on the way of all loving flesh. Who knew Siddartha lived in the suburbs, Mother Teresa wore volleyball kneepads, and the Buddha could emerge from his dream at a traffic light: When the heart is full, give half."
--Michael Capuzzo, author of Close to the Shore and The Murder Room
"The Power of Half proves so much about leadership. Most importantly, that leadership comes in all ages, as long as there is a decision made to let it out and foster it. Hannah and her family inspire me to want to improve the relationships in my life through the power of renewed energy. I'm planning to give this book to everyone I know."
--Alicia Mandel, United States Olympic Committee
"The Power of Half is not just an extraordinary story of a 14-year-old girl who pushes her family to look outside of themselves and give something big back to the world. The Salwen father-daughter duo sets a new standard for families and individuals seeking to inject meaning into their lives. What does your family stand for? What 'half' are you willing to give back? Read this book and, like me and my family, you'll want to tackle these questions and change your life."
--Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind and Drive
"Hannah Salwen and her dad show what can happen when the best of youthful idealism combines with a 'can-do' attitude looking to change the world for the better, one family at a time. Hannah inspires every one of her readers to ask, 'What can I do to help?' An adventure with a conscience. Brava!"
--Susanne B. Beck, Executive Director, National Coalition of Girls' Schools