Overview (No Spoilers):
Hillbilly Elegy first found a place on my TBR list after reading White Trash and having many of my fellow bloggers recommending it as a great follow up read. As so often happens though, for some reason or another books slide down our TBR lists until as time passes they fall off completely. When one of my best friends and fellow bibliophile Stephanie came to visit for a weekend earlier this month to retrace our Michigan State University roots, we spent the whole time in deep conversation, where we were often finding ourselves drawn back to books we’d recently read.
When discussing our love of Educated, Stephanie brought up Hillbilly Elegy as a comparable read that had left her pondering long after finishing the last page. I immediately logged on to my library app to borrow this title before it became lost within the vast expanse of my reading lists for a second time. Once this read became available, I found myself hooked after only a few pages. Vance first details his early life in rural Ohio, where his family still maintained strong ties to the Appalachian region and the values that came along with that heritage. While I’d never heard of the Appalachian migration before, I recognized the story within my own family from the interviews I’ve been conducting with Grandma and Grandpa over the past year regarding our family past. My Grandma’s Parents moved from West Virginia after marriage and even my Grandma recounts frequent trips every year back to visit family, which Vance identifies as a universal trend for this migration group. Within so many of Vance’s stories I could find parallels in both experiences and characters during my own life, with the major exception of the sheltered, supportive youth I was granted in my own family. It is both inspirational and remarkable the hurdles that Vance overcame throughout his life with the cards he had been dealt. As Vance continues past high school, he articulates his journey in a clear and concise manner that opens his world in a seemingly effortless way to the reader, covering everything from his time in the military to law school. During his time in graduate school he discusses his importance of social capital and the many things he had to discover on his own having come from his rural background. I had to smile at many of his lessons learned as I also encountered many of them at some point in my graduate school experience. Overall, while Vance endured countless, significantly more overwhelming hurdles to reach where he is in life, it is rare that I’ve read a book that I’ve found as many comparable parallels, ultimately making me unable to put down this captivating read. By the end of this read though, I couldn’t help but wonder if Vance was setting himself up to eventually run for office.