A few months ago, I was asked to join the local book club. I’d always planned on joining when it was formed a decade ago, but life and my introverted persona thwarted any plan to attend.
I was excited and frightened to go. I knew most of the attendees — when you live in a village of less than 1000 people for over twenty years, you get to know who’s who. My fear was garnered by writer’s doubt. They would realize I’m a fraud. They hated my books and were planning to tar and feather me. Or even worse…they planned to review my book in front of me.
Well, despite my fears, none of the terrible things I thought would happen happened. I’ve enjoyed my time with the group, their insights and the books that we’ve read.
This month’s selection is Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. The New York Times Bestselling story is about Vance’s family, his youth and the culture of the Rust Belt areas of Ohio and Kentucky.
I felt an affinity to the characters described in this book. They fought to protect the family and the family fought among themselves. In my family, we were taught from a young age that “blood is thicker than water”. Another point the author made was how even as his family moved into the middle class, they were uncomfortable with the difference in the culture around them. Behaviors which were accepted in Jackson, KY were frowned upon in Middleton, OH.
Throughout the book, J.D. Vance chronicles the events of his life and how he could have taken a different road than the one he ultimately did — graduating from Ohio State and Yale Law School. His story made me laugh, cry and get angry. Bounced from household to household, a parade of “father figures” and dealing with a parent with substance abuse, J.D. grew up with uncertainty and fear. His only source of stability were his grandparents.
I highly recommend Hillbilly Elegy, it is a moving story which helps to shed light on the reasons we have a large social and political divide in our country. I believe it is important to see what other people have experienced and how their lives are affected by the politics of the day.