Sarah Smarsh was born in rural Kansas and raised by family members who were poor, white, uneducated and violent with multiple marriages, teen pregnancies and all kinds of addictions. Going back five generations, she describes her ancestors’ struggle to avoid poverty. Due to their lifestyles, beliefs and lack of role models, they were never able to break the cycle of poverty. While acknowledging their plights and misfortunes, Smarsh also describes the will power and hard work it took for her to get out of that cycle.
Heartland writes about a population that has been overlooked in most sociological studies. Her descriptions of family members and their life experiences are very good. However, throughout the book she speaks to an unconceived child of hers, and this literary gimmick didn’t work for me.