I wanted to like this ‘ornery Joe memoir. I really did.
It started reasonably well with a recounting of JD’s childhood in Hillbilly country; Ohio and Kentucky specifically and in the Appalachian Mountains precisely.
Brought up in a small town called Middletown known locally as Middletucky, because it’s ‘in the middle of Kentucky’ this is a story about JD’s remarkably impoverished childhood with a narcotics abusing mother, a hugely aggressive grandmother and a series of stepdads. It’s not easy.
JD had an unremarkable schooling largely due to the string of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that he had to endure. But several stars aligned to help him escape this awful childhood, firstly his grandparents, then the marines, then college and finally an unlikely entry to Yale where he studied law and walked into a high level job.
So it’s got to be a can’t put down page turner, right?
I’m sorry to say it isn’t. The early momentum that Vance establishes gradually turns into a bit of a lecture about poverty, lack of opportunity and just downright dull storytelling.
It needs judicious editing because even though it’s not very long it becomes a Groundhog Day read with endless reploughing of the same old furrow.
By the end I was bored to tears and most of my sympathy had deserted me.
I can’t recommend this, although the sentiment is admirable.
Also, the front cover puff suggests insights into both Brexit (Brexit? It’s set in Rust Belt America) and Trumpism. Trump isn’t even mentioned.