After sitting on my bookshelf for almost six months, I finally dove into Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance. Much like another book I recently read, How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana with Abigail Pesta, this novel is a by-the-numbers memoir. In both instances, it is the content that distinguishes each. Both Vance and Uwiringiyimana come from very different perspectives. Both novels concern their respective protagonists real struggle with adversities, and while How Dare is the story of an immigrant to the U.S., Hillbilly Elegy tells the author's story of growing up in Appalachia, an American local that often feels alien.
In many ways there are two books under a single cover: one is the story of Vance's relationship with this key figure in his personal development and the other a social commentary. For my money, the latter which is far more compelling. If much of the text is somewhat detached in its voice despite employing very conversational language, when illustrating his relationship with Mamaw that Hillbilly Elegy comes to life. Mamaw is a beautifully developed "character." Presented as an imperfect maternal figure that continues to push Vance toward some semblance of success, it is clear that both Mamaw and Vance sense that the price for any upward mobility would be their relationship.
Widely available on the shelves of your local public library, I recommend Hillbilly Elegy as an interesting summer read. Vance's story is compelling, especially as part of wider consideration of the kaleidoscopic American experience.