Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth

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Heartland, the first full-length book by writer Sarah Smarsh, is a brilliant and heartbreakingly hopeful examination of class, gender, and the pursuit of happiness in America. Like Smarsh, I am a fifth-generation Kansan; every word she wrote about the often seemingly insurmountable divide between hard work and financial success rings startlingly true.

Narratively structured as a letter to August, an imagined daughter, Smarsh recounts her own history as well as the experiences of her mother Jeannie, grandmother Betty, and other stand-out players in her family tree. But the book isn’t pure memoir. If it were, those stories—funny, poignant, and written with near-surgical precision—would be exceptional on their own. What makes the book necessary, what makes it impossible to put down, what makes it re-readable and sharable and important is the social commentary it contains. Smarsh examines the cost of hard, physical work, making the wrong choices when it comes to men, the necessity of an education, and the often futile exercise of trying to rise in a system made to keep people down.

In a narrative crisscrossed by the travels of people dead and gone, the sacrifices of those still living, and the monumental question of what it means to be a person of value, Smarsh has written a book that deserves every accolade.Heartland is nothing short of an American classic that should be devoured and savored by readers everywhere.

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Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 320 pages
Publisher Scribner
Publish Date 2019-09-03
ISBN 9781501133107
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue January 2020
Category Current Events & Politics


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