The book is a history of the author’s family that essentially covers the Twentieth Century. His forbears migrated from southern Georgia to an area of Texas later called Big Spring. The story covers their experiences during booms and busts in the oil industry, the Depression, and multiple wars. The author starts with the story of what brought his people from Georgia and takes it all the way through to the present day (although the 21st Century is presented largely as an epilogue).
The book is well-written and the people he tells about are interesting (for the most part), but after I reached about the 2/3 mark of the book I started wondering why I should care about them. The story doesn’t end with some great person doing a great thing – it just ends with the author. And that’s the problem. If I were to write the history of my family there might be parts that others would find interesting, but since there aren’t any famous people in my family who have accomplished anything the book would just kind of end with me saying, “And then I was born and I’m an accountant.” Not a great ending, eh? That’s pretty much how this book ends. I realize his thesis is that his family’s story is a picture of America – and there’s certainly some truth to that – but the bottom line is that the story doesn’t end with anything or anyone that makes the journey worth it. There should be some payoff where you say, “Wow, I had no idea Famous Guy had that kind of backstory.”
That negative aside, the book does do an excellent job of recounting how difficult life can be for the working class. The things his family went through at different times over the years were not for the faint of heart. And the stories of fortunes won and lost were heartbreaking in some cases. He also does a nice job of showing how religion played a large part in different family members’ lives and how that evolved over the generations.
Even so, my recommendation for this book is that you can probably pass. You may like the pictures of family life and the history of working-class Texas, but after a while I think you’ll come to the same conclusion I did – why do I care?