In this memoir, he closely examines his family's origins in Kentucky, the move north, his own upbringing with his drug addict mother and absent father, his two siblings and of paramount importance his grandparents who ended up fulfilling the parent role in his difficult and compromised childhood. In particular he explores the culture of the hillbilly, the majority of whom are of Scots-Irish stock, their work and life ethic, how they are quite different from many other areas and populations of the USA, what makes them tick, and of most import, the derision, scorn and prejudice constantly targeted at them. In reading this I couldn't help but think that they have been put in the same category as gypsies, or indigenous working class minorities in many countries. In the western world economies of neo-liberalism, where profit is king, often there is little understanding of how these societies tick, and little compulsion to try.
So the situation in the Appalachians is not unique to the USA, but also in my own country, and I imagine in most other Western countries. I loved this book for so many reasons - Vance's own family and life story, the sadness and hopelessness that is pervading daily life, how he managed to find himself and climb out of the vortex he was being sucked into, opening up his heart and soul to the anonymous reader, and from a sociology or anthropology point of view, the world he is innately part of that has made him the man he is, and will forever be a part of him.