I have to confess I'm new to Buddhism, and didn't know the story of this before reading the book. Having read it, I gather the tale is fairly well known and discussed in Buddhist circles - I only found it because it was mentioned in Brad Warner's recent book.
The author went to considerable lengths to search out a very wide range of people involved in the Zen Center at the time, as well as speaking to those who were involved before, and those who had to deal with the aftermath. What you end up with is quite a balanced view - one senses the confusion and frustration of most of those involved, and gets a feeling for the various relationships and how they played out.
The story is effectively about the relationship between students and teachers, and the incident with the shoes? Really a side-story in a tale about what can happen when students believe too much in their teacher, and their teacher starts taking those beliefs to heart. What happened at the San Fran Zen Center was clearly a mess, but it's a mess that needed both sides to get to the level that it did.
Many would argue that this book shouldn't be read by those new to Buddhism, as it could turn them off the religion. I'd suggest that it shouldn't be the first thing they read, but they should read it early on, and take the lesson to heart - we're all humans, complete with human failings and frailties - even those we look to for guidance to the middle way.
This is a fascinating history of the rise and fall of the founder of San Francisco Zen Center and how easily even in the spiritual world things can fall apart over greed, envy and the desire to have power over others. As I long time Zen practitioner, I found it particularly interesting, but perhaps I should qualify my five star rating by saying it might not be so interesting for someone who isnt into Buddhism, meditation, yoga and the like. It was interesting to read about how Roshi Baker got the whole enterprise going, his vision and determination. What happened afterwards was so sad, but the Center is thriving still, so the spirit continues.