#bookreview – Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis – by J.D. Vance

Despite all the hype, I was disappointed. Awarded three stars on Goodreads.

hillbillyIn an era where Donald Trump can be elected president, I understand why this book currently has such a big following. And while I did feel the book offers some useful insight into why the 2016 election turned out as it did, I did not find this book lived up to all the hype.

J.D. Vance, a self-described hillbilly and former marine, now an upper class attorney in San Francisco tells the story of his rags-to-riches climb from poverty and societal hopelessness to realizing the American dream. While an unstable mother with a string of boyfriends/husbands and a recurring drug problem held him back, the steady love of an older sister and his grandparents encouraged him on. A powerful story like this should have been a real emotional grabber. But it wasn’t for me. In fact, at times, it was downright dry.

For most of the book, Vance concentrates on his life’s story. And that at least is interesting. But toward the end, he begins citing research and the book takes on a didactic flavor that became boring. He readily admits that he has no comprehensive explanation for his “hillbilly world.” So why all the effort to include the literature? I would have preferred that he just stuck to his own story, and written it more as a participant than as an observer.

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