While Vance does not disparage the government help he receives — the Pell grants and scholarships and the four years he spent in the Marine Corps that turned his life around — what made a difference for him, he says, was not policy but people: his grandparents, sister, aunts and uncles.
They were there to pick him up when he was down, to show him by example how to live his life. But they — his hillbilly tribe — have deep-seated problems of their own that government policies alone won't solve.
To read this book is to feel both depressed at the depth of these problems and inspired that someone can surmount them. It is, also, to realize how complex are the workings of the human heart.