Book Review: Hillbilly Elegy + The Girls

January 17, 2017

Winter is death, but books offer a small antidote. Two for you today, with another memoir and another novel review coming soon. Suggestions always welcome. Most of my library requests come from the comments in these book review posts.

As always, reviews are spoiler free.

Happy reading. May warmth and sanity find you even on the most wintery days. I’m trying my best, too.



1. Hillbilly Elegy.

3.5/5 stars (Would recommend to some)

If You’re Looking For: Memoir, current events, the ability to reference what everyone else is reading

If You Like: Real life family dysfunction mixed with political and social commentary

My Review: It is going to seem like a cop out to not give my full reaction to this book (it is kind of a cop out), but in my experience it’s better to actually read the book before reading all the various critiques, controversies, and commentaries (there are plenty for this one). What’s important (I guess?), is that I enjoyed it. It’s interesting, engaging, and a window into a culture in America that is foreign to most. PS: You’ll have a long wait if you request this at the library, so special thanks to my friend Bethany for lending me her copy in time for our book club discussion.

Their Review: “What explains the appeal of Donald Trump? Many pundits have tried to answer this question and fallen short. But J.D. Vance nails it…stunning…intimate…” – 50% of the reviews

“I read this before it was popular. This has nothing to do with Trump. Isn’t the author a Republican? This book is offensive and inconsistent. I lived there and this is false.” – The other 50%

Quoted: Barack Obama strikes at the heart of our deepest insecurities. He is a good father while many of us aren’t. He wears suits to his job while we wear overalls, if we’re lucky enough to have a job at all. His wife tells us that we shouldn’t be feeding our children certain foods, and we hate her for it—not because we think she’s wrong but because we know she’s right.


2. The Girls.

4/5 stars (Would recommend to a friend)

If You’re Looking For: Fiction, a good story

If You Liked: The Boston Girl

My Review: This is the story of Rose and Ruby Darlen, the world’s oldest surviving craniopagus (conjoined at the head) twins. When I first started reading their “autobiography,” I had to check several times to make sure it wasn’t a true story. Lori Lansens, HOW DID YOU DO THIS. How did you take the very rare premise of twin girls joined at the head and create a novel so believable that it’s almost unbelievable that it isn’t real. Truly funny, fascinating, and beautiful. A brilliant portrait of two very different people, connected by biology and sisterhood. Couldn’t put it down.

Their Review: “It is the true test of a writer’s mettle to create a convincing narrator, and Lori Lansens has done it not once but twice in her remarkable novel about conjoined twins. The two fascinating protagonists of The Girls live their lives together in every way, and yet nevertheless emerge with beliefs and desires all their own, and with distinct outlooks on their difficult circumstances. Lori Lansens is clearly a novelist with a very delicate touch.” – Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha

Quoted: If heaven is tolerant and writers are allowed (bunch of liars though they are), I wonder if they gather for coffee to ponder the prose they should have written instead.


Favorite Books

All Book Reviews

9 thoughts on “Book Review: Hillbilly Elegy + The Girls

  1. Dara

    Hillbilly Elegy is at the top of my list to read. My dad came from that background and much of his family still live that life so it’s an interest for personal reasons.

    There’s another book, called White Trash, that examines the historical roots of that often forgotten segment of society. I’ve wanted to read both around the same time to compare it from a personal and academic view.

    And the last book you reviewed looks good as well. I’m always looking for good fiction. Thanks for your reviews!

  2. Brooke

    Reading Hillbilly Elegy now and would really like your full reaction. I don’t come from this region or roots, but I do currently live and work in NC Appalachia. My husband and I both have occupations where we interacted regularly with this sect of society. Vance’s point of view and story is interesting. I really want to talk about this book with someone!

  3. Larkin Kipp

    I found Hillbilly Elegy to be eye-opening, fascinating, educational, and heart-breaking. Reading “The Nix” now per Sarah Jessica Parker’s Instagram suggestion (total fan girl over here), and I am thoroughly enjoying it. We’ll see how it ends, but so far so good!

  4. Anna

    I just finished All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. Technically it is YA fiction, but I believe it is an important read for teenagers, parents, and humans alike.

  5. Bekah

    I recently read Hillbilly Elegy as well and thought I might give it up halfway through. It hooked me, though, somewhere in the middle and although I am still a little lukewarm on it, I am still thinking about it weeks later (for what it’s worth). I have now been listening to a five part series on poverty in America by “On the Media” and in some ways it is more satisfying to me than Vance’s memoir and single-person point of view:

    I am now reading Zero K and seriously wondering if I need to stop reading digital titles for awhile because I am pretty meh on this one, too…either I am not borrowing titles that grip me or it’s the mode of reading on my phone.

    As always thanks for the reviews!

  6. Sarah

    I liked Hillbilly Elegy but I married into a white collar family and I come from a blue collar family so I am fascinated by any literature that investigates different classes. Have you heard of the podcast What Should I Read Next by Ann Bogel? It is awesome and each episode has me adding multiple books to my Goodreads list. I recently read Everyone Brave is Forgiven on her recommendation and really liked it.

  7. Rebekah

    I just finished The Girls-great book! Thanks for your recommendations-lots of the books I read I found because of you.


Say hello.