Vance is very open about his family's troubling past, and provides some interesting insights into the hillbilly culture. Like almost every other culture, I suppose, this one is teeming with contradictions. One minute there are violent, screaming fights, while the next is filled with loving kindness; through it all, fierce family loyalty is the cardinal virtue.
While I can understand Vance's loyalty to and love for the people and ways that formed his life, many of the incidents he describes are almost too painful to read. And while he managed to escape to college, law school, and a more typical life, his hillbilly upbringing left lasting marks, and the specter of those who remain trapped is never far from thought.
This is a memoir, not a scholarly work. It's well written, unflinching, and worth reading for a personal look at a largely overlooked segment of our society.