As I listened to key players come and go (and go and go), I was reminded of the revolving door that's been installed at the executive mansion. All the crazy that you THOUGHT was going on during the election, during the transition, during the first 100 days, and during the first 6 months of Trump's presidency is only scratching the surface of crazy. So. Much. Crazy.
OK, on to the review. Detective Cormoran Strike is former--former military, former fiance, former bipedal. He is failing miserably as a gumshoe when two things happen in succession--he is sent an amazing temporary office assistant named Robin, and a new client walks into his office asking him to investigate the "suicide" of supermodel Lula Landry--the Cuckoo of the title. These two coincidental occurrences start to turn Strike's life around, at least as far as putting his bank account back into the black and getting his mind off of his former fiance. I found the plot completely engaging, the characters (especially Strike and Robin) on par with what I've come to expect from Rowling. I simply did not want this to end (and Audible narrator Robert Glenister was a treat to listen to!) I can't wait to get the next two installments.
Many of those societal observations about children growing up in trauma or in homes where helplessness and hopelessness are pervasive, resonated with me as I continue to work with educators. The stories I hear again and again are about students who just don't care, who can't make connections between what they're learning in school and preparing for "adulting" someday, and a lack of parent support for education. Vance states, "There is no group of Americans more pessimistic than working-class whites. . . . 42% of working-class whites . . . report that their lives are less economically successful than those of their parents'." This percentage closely mirrors (or even falls short of) the number of children who qualify for free or reduced lunch in my area of Wisconsin. Another of Vance's statements jumped out at me--"Boys who got good grades were 'sissies' or 'faggots.' . . . [S]tudies now show that working-class boys like me do much worse in school because they view schoolwork as a feminine endeavor." I absolutely experienced this sentiment over and over again from many of my male students.
So what conclusions did I draw from Hillbilly Elegy? I already know what I didn't know when I was teaching--that many of my students came from much more challenging lives than I could have imagined. In the end, as much as the "powers that be" debate and discuss and disparage education today, until the REAL needs--societal reform that impacts poverty and trauma--are addressed and all children receive the support they need at home, nothing is going to improve. And the J.D. Vance's in our classes will be the exception, not the rule.