The bumpkin made good story seems to be in something of a renaissance right now, and I think I was spoiled by Educated, which was spectacular and non-fiction. I enjoyed this book, but the fictional aspect took me out of it – there’s too much to make our protagonist saintly and it feels forced. I also hate hate hate when writers try to imitate patois in their writing. It feels minstrel-y, and doubles down on the fictional remove because I always think “I have never heard anyone talk exactly like this.” Shades sometimes, or a close version, but never the full on “gwan now, ye hear!” every sentence. And, god help me, I got a copy of Hillbilly Elegy before I learned about what made it problematic, and I feel like that’s gonna be even worse. (At least I bought it used from the local bookstore, no money in Vance’s pocket from me).
I shouldn’t have made the comparison to Educated, because that book is fucking magical, but now that I opened that door I can’t shut it. I just keep thinking about how Tara Westover owns some of the ambiguities in her story, there are no gray areas in this book. I think about how Westover actually confronts some of the ways that a lack of education led to misunderstandings and people thinking ill of her (I’m thinking particularly of the scene where she asks what the word “Holocaust” was as she had never encountered it, and the professor thinks she’s making a sick joke). Here, Kya is helped by a local couple, and I feel like they were black characters only to show that Kya may be ignorant but she’s not racist.
I’m being awfully nitpicky for a book I essentially enjoyed – the denouement especially – so I’ll stop; it’s worth the read. But I don’t understand why everyone went nuts for this book.