Hill Women
After rising from poverty to earn two Ivy League degrees, an Appalachian lawyer pays tribute to the strong “hill women” who raised and inspired her, and whose values have the potential to rejuvenate a struggling region—an uplifting and eye-opening memoir for readers of Hillbilly Elegy and Educated. Nestled in the Appalachian mountains, Owsley County is one of the poorest counties in both Kentucky and the country. Buildings are crumbling and fields sit vacant, as tobacco farming and coal mining decline. But strong women are finding creative ways to subsist in their hollers in the hills. Cassie Chambers grew up in these hollers and, through the women who raised her, she traces her own path out of and back into the Kentucky mountains. Chambers’s Granny was a child bride who rose before dawn every morning to raise seven children. Despite her poverty, she wouldn’t hesitate to give the last bite of pie or vegetables from her garden to a struggling neighbor. Her two daughters took very different paths: strong-willed Ruth—the hardest-working tobacco farmer in the county—stayed on the family farm, while spirited Wilma—the sixth child—became the first in the family to graduate from high school, then moved an hour away for college. Married at nineteen and pregnant with Cassie a few months later, Wilma beat the odds to finish school. She raised her daughter to think she could move mountains, like the ones that kept her safe but also isolated her from the larger world. Cassie would spend much of her childhood with Granny and Ruth in the hills of Owsley County, both while Wilma was in college and after. With her “hill women” values guiding her, Cassie went on to graduate from Harvard Law. But while the Ivy League gave her knowledge and opportunities, its privileged world felt far from her reality, and she moved back home to help her fellow rural Kentucky women by providing free legal services. Appalachian women face issues that are all too common: domestic violence, the opioid crisis, a world that seems more divided by the day. But they are also community leaders, keeping their towns together in the face of a system that continually fails them. With nuance and heart, Chambers uses these women’s stories paired with her own journey to break down the myth of the hillbilly and illuminate a region whose poor communities, especially women, can lead it into the future.

Hill Women Details

TitleHill Women
Author
ReleaseJan 7th, 2020
PublisherBallantine Books
ISBN-139781984818911
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Biography, History

Hill Women Review

  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    Cassie Chambers is an attorney, an Ivy League graduate of Yale and Harvard Law School and in this memoir pays loving tribute to the strong women who graced her life growing up in Appalachian Hills in Owsley County Kentucky in a place called Cow Creek. It’s a place steeped in poverty, but filled with people of grit, gumption, creativity, hard working people like her grandmother, her mother and her aunt. The poverty is extensive, as she describes the lives of the people here. Her family was more Cassie Chambers is an attorney, an Ivy League graduate of Yale and Harvard Law School and in this memoir pays loving tribute to the strong women who graced her life growing up in Appalachian Hills in Owsley County Kentucky in a place called Cow Creek. It’s a place steeped in poverty, but filled with people of grit, gumption, creativity, hard working people like her grandmother, her mother and her aunt. The poverty is extensive, as she describes the lives of the people here. Her family was more fortunate than some as share croppers, even though they didn’t own the land. Grueling hard work was part of her grandmother’s every day existence and in spite of the poverty and difficult life, her grandmother still found joy in life and family. She describes her Aunt Ruth as “the best worker in Owsley County”, devoting herself to her mother and father and the farm when her siblings left to get married. Her mother, Wilma, the first in the family to graduate from college, is the role model who encouraged Cassie to get an education. It is the things she learned from them, the values they instilled in her to which she attributes her life choices and the wherewithal to to achieve what she has. This is more than a tribute to these amazing women of the hills, though. It’s an expose of the injustices in many ways that these hill communities endure because of the lack of health care, the lack of outside help that leaves these people without services available to other parts of the country. After living a more “privileged life” as she lives in cities where she goes to college and law school, she wants to give back. Cassie returns after getting her law degree from Harvard to provide legal aid mostly to women. Women who have endured spousal abuse, custody battles, divorce, or are struggling to get social services so they could feed their children are among her clients. She shares some of these heartbreaking stories and it’s eye opening. While it’s somewhat repetitive and moved around in time a bit, it’s filled with heart and love and a deep respect she has for her family and other hill women . I received an advanced copy of this book from Ballantine through NetGalley.
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed this book...it is about hill women from the hollers of Kentucky, and my mom comes from the hollers of West Virginia.The author, Cassie Chambers, was able to rise out of poverty to become a lawyer with two Ivy League Degrees, and became an advocate for the poor in Kentucky.Cassie came from a long line of hard working folks who were very poor and none had gone far at all in school, they had to work the fields of the tobacco farm they lived on. Her mother was the only child of her I really enjoyed this book...it is about hill women from the hollers of Kentucky, and my mom comes from the hollers of West Virginia.The author, Cassie Chambers, was able to rise out of poverty to become a lawyer with two Ivy League Degrees, and became an advocate for the poor in Kentucky.Cassie came from a long line of hard working folks who were very poor and none had gone far at all in school, they had to work the fields of the tobacco farm they lived on. Her mother was the only child of her grandparents to graduate high school and attend college, making life better for herself.Casie addresses the problems of living in these areas.. why people find it so hard to rise up out of poverty.I was reminded so much of my mom’s years in the hills and her relatives there when reading the parts of her book when she talks about her Granny and Papaw and Aunt Ruth, and what living in the holler was like. I just loved those parts of the book!Thank you to Netgalley and Random House-Ballantine
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  • Cheri
    January 1, 1970
    !! NOW AVAILABLE !! ”This holler feels like home, and this house feels like family. There are women’s stories here, stories of resilience, love, and strength. This community knows them well, but their echo hasn’t reached far enough into the outside world. Instead, these tales have ricocheted within the mountains, growing more faint with time. I want to tell these stories because they matter, because I’m afraid that they will be forgotten, because they have the power to make this community !! NOW AVAILABLE !! ”This holler feels like home, and this house feels like family. There are women’s stories here, stories of resilience, love, and strength. This community knows them well, but their echo hasn’t reached far enough into the outside world. Instead, these tales have ricocheted within the mountains, growing more faint with time. I want to tell these stories because they matter, because I’m afraid that they will be forgotten, because they have the power to make this community visible. As I stop my vehicle and walk toward the house, the memories wash over me like the sunlight on the mountain hills.” Chambers returned to Owsley County, Kentucky – one of the poorest counties in the state as well as the U.S. - after being one of the few young women raised there who pursued an education after high school, her mother before her setting the example and encouraging her to pursue her dreams of experiencing life beyond these hills. ”I don’t have enough ways to honor them, these women of the Appalachian hills. Women who built a support system for me and for others. The best way I know is to tell their stories.” A memoir of growing up in poverty, of the women who inspired her to reach for her dreams, to believe in her self-worth enough to graduate from Yale and Harvard Law, and has helped others along the way. She also includes her personal struggles to accept how each place had become a part of her, giving her unique perspectives that benefitted the people she has helped, perhaps more importantly these women struggling against the laws established in this very patriarchal culture that includes additional deterrents for women in particular: domestic violence and poverty, along with laws that have failed not only to protect them, but has penalized those seeking protection. My father grew up in the hollers of West Virginia, and was lucky enough to recognize his desire to become a pilot at a very young age, and luckier still that his dream not only came true, but that he made a difference in airline safety, his passion. I’ve visited the small town where he grew up, met some of the people who were his friends, and been charmed and moved by the honest generosity of those I met, but it is still easy to see the depth of poverty that exists there, and the limitations it can present. A nicely balanced glimpse at the lives of these Hill Women that offers insight into the struggles and problems unique to these communities while recognizing and appreciating the positive sides of their sense of community, as well. An inspiring read.Pub Date: 07 JAN 2020Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine / Ballantine Books through NetGalley
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    HILL WOMEN was a delightful read that was both enlightening and entertaining. The writing was both passionate and immersing. It’s a well-delivered portrait of the culture of the poorest county in the country as well as how one can emerge from it. Cassie skillfully transports us to the hills of Kentucky and gives us a beautifully descriptive vision of the women that live there. I appreciated her honesty in her writing about her feelings of the family she had left behind and of not fitting in at HILL WOMEN was a delightful read that was both enlightening and entertaining. The writing was both passionate and immersing. It’s a well-delivered portrait of the culture of the poorest county in the country as well as how one can emerge from it. Cassie skillfully transports us to the hills of Kentucky and gives us a beautifully descriptive vision of the women that live there. I appreciated her honesty in her writing about her feelings of the family she had left behind and of not fitting in at Yale and Harvard. I found the discussion of the divergent paths between she and her cousin intriguing I loved how, after many years of being away, she felt the desire to go back to Kentucky to help those in need. Most of all, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Cassie, her mother, Wilma, her Aunt Ruth and her Granny. These feisty hill women have already begun a charge for change in the hills of Kentucky. CASSIE CHAMBERS graduated from Yale College, the Yale School of Public Health, the London School of Economics, and Harvard Law School, where she was president of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. Chambers then received a Skadden Fellowship to return to Kentucky to do legal work with domestic violence survivors in rural communities. In 2018, she helped pass Jeanette’s Law, which eliminated the requirement that domestic violence survivors pay an incarcerated spouse’s legal fees in order to get a divorce. She lives in Louisville with her husband, Bryan and their son.Thanks to Netgalley for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Publisher Ballantine BooksPublished January 7, 2020Review www.bluestockingreviews.com
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  • Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsOwsley County is one of the poorest counties not only in the state of Kentucky but also the United States.Cassie Chambers spent a lot of her childhood in Owsley with family while her mom finished college and returned throughout her life seeking connection with her roots.Chambers shares family history to allow readers to understand where she began: her granny was a child bride who raised seven children isolated in a holler of Kentucky and most of her children gave up on education before 3.5 starsOwsley County is one of the poorest counties not only in the state of Kentucky but also the United States.Cassie Chambers spent a lot of her childhood in Owsley with family while her mom finished college and returned throughout her life seeking connection with her roots.Chambers shares family history to allow readers to understand where she began:  her granny was a child bride who raised seven children isolated in a holler of Kentucky and most of her children gave up on education before high school.  Her two daughters took very different paths: Ruth became the hardest working tobacco farmer in Owsley while Wilma became the first to graduate from high school and then moved an hour away to attend college.Wilma married at nineteen and then had Cassie soon after, taking time off from college to focus on Cassie.  Against the odds, Wilma returned and completed her degree when Cassie was little.Wilma's determination opened a world to Cassie that would've otherwise been impossible.  Cassie understood the importance of education and held on to the values learned from the hardworking women of Appalachia, leading her to the Ivy League where she graduated from Harvard Law.Her roots led her back to Kentucky where she practices law and provides free legal services to rural Kentucky women.Weaving together the past with her own story, Chambers provides a compelling look at the world opened up to her and how her family shaped her goals and values.  Hill Women focuses on the strong women of Appalachia and the family history is the shining star of this book.  The discussion of poverty is matter of fact and fairly balanced, acknowledging the different mindsets on government assistance and reflecting on changes over time.Its weakness lies in the fact that politics are left out of the history but appears at the very end to discuss Trump's influence on Appalachia.  I realize Chambers recently became involved in politics so its fair this would be discussed but I expected she would cover some of the government influence on Appalachia during her Granny and mother's generations also.A strong beginning and middle with a slightly weakened ending, I enjoyed Chambers' observations on Appalachia and tribute to strong hill women."I still struggle with how to balance many delicate and competing concerns: talking about the problems Appalachia faces while highlighting its strengths; recognizing the importance of tradition while still supporting innovative change; encouraging community-driven solutions along with bringing outside resources to the region. I wish I had some more solid conclusions to share, but, in the end, it's the complexities of Appalachia and the people who live here that needs sharing most." *I recommend Hill Women to readers who enjoy autobiography/memoir and an Appalachian setting.Thanks to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. Hill Women: Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains is scheduled for release on January 7, 2020.*Quotes included are from a digital advanced reader's copy and are subject to change upon final publication.For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com
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  • Tami
    January 1, 1970
    The more I read this book, the more I was reminded of JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. This is pretty much the female version of his story. Like Vance, Cassie Chambers made it out of her rural hometown and ended up at Yale, earning a law degree. It’s admirable that Cassie wanted to better herself enough to do the work required to enjoy a better life. It’s also admirable that she has gone back to her home state to help make life better for others. But when it came to some of her own family members, The more I read this book, the more I was reminded of JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. This is pretty much the female version of his story. Like Vance, Cassie Chambers made it out of her rural hometown and ended up at Yale, earning a law degree. It’s admirable that Cassie wanted to better herself enough to do the work required to enjoy a better life. It’s also admirable that she has gone back to her home state to help make life better for others. But when it came to some of her own family members, she accepted their lack of ambition, made excuses for them and failed to encourage them to get an education.I did expect more from this book. Once I got about halfway through, I felt like I had learned all she had to tell and I was right. I wish I had not wasted my time finishing the second half. It’s not a bad book, but I just felt like she had nothing new to say.Thank you, NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine for allowing me to read an advance copy and give my honest review.
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    A counterpoint to the book Hillbilly Elegy, which tended to show the worst of the Appalachian people. This book shows the best, shows their strong sense of family, their hard work and the hardships they face daily. Owsley County, KY is one of the poorest counties in the nation, but despite that these proud people soldier on, without public aid. Women and their strength, women who encourage their children to get a higher education, knowing that is their ticket out of the poverty that encompasses A counterpoint to the book Hillbilly Elegy, which tended to show the worst of the Appalachian people. This book shows the best, shows their strong sense of family, their hard work and the hardships they face daily. Owsley County, KY is one of the poorest counties in the nation, but despite that these proud people soldier on, without public aid. Women and their strength, women who encourage their children to get a higher education, knowing that is their ticket out of the poverty that encompasses so many. The author parents, even after her birth, did finish college, and the author would get more than one degree. Still, she has find memories of her time, when younger, spending time there, working with her aunt. It is a place and family that she cherishes.An ode to strong women, women that pass on their morals, sense of family and strength of character.ARC from librarything.
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  • Donna Davis
    January 1, 1970
    Cassie Chambers was born and raised in Owsley County, Kentucky, the poorest county in the United States. With the determination handed down to her by her mother and grandmother, she attended Ivy League schools and became a practicing attorney. This memoir is her story as well as a defense of the women from her homeland, a manifesto opposing stereotypes and misconceptions. I read it free and early thanks to Net Galley and Random House Ballantine. It will be available to the public January 7, Cassie Chambers was born and raised in Owsley County, Kentucky, the poorest county in the United States. With the determination handed down to her by her mother and grandmother, she attended Ivy League schools and became a practicing attorney. This memoir is her story as well as a defense of the women from her homeland, a manifesto opposing stereotypes and misconceptions. I read it free and early thanks to Net Galley and Random House Ballantine. It will be available to the public January 7, 2020. Eastern Kentucky is in the heart of Appalachian Mountains, and its residents are stereotypically called hillbillies by outsiders. As a scholar whose childhood was rooted there, Chambers is in a unique position to share the culture’s nuances and strengths. She was raised by parents that had to save up to buy her a set of Old Maid cards from Walmart; going out to dinner, which happened Sundays, meant a single Happy Meal at McDonald’s shared three ways. But her mother’s determination to graduate college drove home the value of an education, and when Cassie had the opportunity to spend the last two years of high school at a boarding school for high achieving students, she leapt and her family supported her. Chambers’ narrative is intimate and deeply absorbing. She weaves her own story into the larger story of Appalachian women: their culture, their history, their strengths and the challenges they face. She discusses the difficulty of receiving public services in an area that is spread out among hills and hollers, devoid of transit and low on personal transportation, and that has no government buildings to speak of; she also describes the pride that sometimes prevents its residents from accepting help for which they are qualified. She has a bottomless well of riveting anecdotes that illustrate the sense of community and willingness to lend assistance to neighbors in need even when those offering help have nothing extra to give; the Justice system often fails those that need protection from domestic abuse, as well as those addicted to drugs and alcohol. And she discusses remedies, including Jeanette’s Law, which reverses Kentucky’s absurd legal requirement that victims of domestic abuse must provide the spouses that they are divorcing with an attorney at their own expense. This was one of Chambers’ most important projects. Another is having expungement fees waived for low income residents, an especially urgent matter since in Kentucky, felons aren’t allowed to vote. Democracy is sidelined when class and race become obstacles to participation in civic life. But the most memorable tidbits are the more personal stories, for example that of her Aunt Ruth, who married late in life. Before they were wed, Aunt Ruth had a conversation with Sonny, her husband-to-be, in which she explained to him carefully that if he ever hit her, she would be forced to kill him, in his sleep if necessary, using a large claw hammer, and so if this was likely to be a problem then the wedding should be canceled. (It wasn’t.)The best memoirs combine a social issue or political problem with a personal story told by a top-drawer storyteller, and Hill Women succeeds richly in both regards. I recommend this book to women everywhere, and to those that love them.
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  • Karen Rush
    January 1, 1970
    Cassie Chambers has led a rich and joyful life despite living in extreme poverty. Filling her days laboring in the tobacco fields, living in a particleboard farmhouse, yet she never felt deprived. Cassie comes from a line of strong, independent and caring Appalachian mountain women who worked hard, took care of one another, their family and their neighbors. It is clear that Cassie is extremely appreciative of her inspirational ‘teachers’ and the values they taught such as the importance of Cassie Chambers has led a rich and joyful life despite living in extreme poverty. Filling her days laboring in the tobacco fields, living in a particleboard farmhouse, yet she never felt deprived. Cassie comes from a line of strong, independent and caring Appalachian mountain women who worked hard, took care of one another, their family and their neighbors. It is clear that Cassie is extremely appreciative of her inspirational ‘teachers’ and the values they taught such as the importance of education and generosity, building their lives around their children. An illuminating memoir incorporating moving generational family stories.I received an advanced copy of this book from Random House-Ballantine through NetGalley.
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  • Denise Wilbanks | This Is My Everybody | T.I.M.E.
    January 1, 1970
    Past. Present. Future… Those three things can seem like three completely different worlds in your life, can't they? And maintaining a connection between those three -- as much as you love and honor every single one of them -- It can be elusive at times. Especially as you're moving forward in your life and you want to achieve dreams that you have. And even more… Especially if those dreams take you very, very far away from home. “Hill Women” by Cassie Chambers is a wonderful book written by an Past. Present. Future… Those three things can seem like three completely different worlds in your life, can't they? And maintaining a connection between those three -- as much as you love and honor every single one of them -- It can be elusive at times. Especially as you're moving forward in your life and you want to achieve dreams that you have. And even more… Especially if those dreams take you very, very far away from home. “Hill Women” by Cassie Chambers is a wonderful book written by an Appalachian lawyer who earned two Ivy league degrees. And then, chose to return to her Eastern Kentucky home to set up shop. Inspired by these strong hill women who raised her, she pays tribute to these women's stories and discovers a renewed connection to her own past... Also exemplifies a refreshingly new understanding of how to deal with today's divisive national politics... And completely breaks down the myth of what you might think the Appalachian culture is -- illuminating a very creative, very active community leadership often spearheaded by the women.FIRST IMPRESSIONS: I must tell you that when I first looked at this book, I did not think I was going to like it. But I had committed to reading it. So I was determined to move forward… and I was really glad I did. When I got into this book and started reading — my opinion really changed quite quickly to: I really like this book! Even more, I was actually really loving this book! So why was it that my first impression was that I didn't think I was going to like this book? I really gave that some thought. And, I realized that I definitely had some predetermined opinions about what I thought the Appalachian community is.But, what this book did to me very quickly is... This book took me — and my predetermined opinions — out to the woodshed and gave me a good ol’ Appalachian whoopin’! Because I absolutely loved this book! And let me tell you why... WRITING STYLE:Hill Women by Cassie Chambers is written with a really pure, simple nuance, which is not an easy thing to do. To walk that microscopic line of skillful simplicity without the structure of the book becoming too amateurish -- and the structure of the book just falling all to pieces.So, brava to Cassie Chambers!Why is that important? Because that beautiful simple tone — it literally speaks perfectly to your heart. It builds a connection. To bridge any chasm of disconnection, it can be quite effective to speak to each other in pure, simple language. Without any kind of pretension on top of that.Why? Because it inspires trust. To speak purely. To speak authentically. To speak simply — is incredibly exposing. And that, my friends, really takes courage. It's courageous. It's authentic. That courage to be authentic — It encourages you to drop your guard. It encourages you to stop defending your point of reference just for the sake of defending your point of reference. To really give yourself the opportunity to take in the experience that you're having.Well, this writing style starts to work on you like a snake charmer! Where your own memories are drawn out as you follow the journey of the author. Although your experience may be far removed from the Appalachian mountains, you find yourself living the story through your own experience. Creating a common bond between your story and this community’s story. Countless times as I was reading this book, my own personal memories would come up… just like a snake being lured up out of the basket by a snake charmer. Memories that I had not thought of in years. And what was even more amazing is that now I was embracing these memories from this new lens of understanding.Isn't that what reading is all about?! Finding that amazing book where the author does not say — “This is what you should think about this. Period.” But actually just gives you this peek inside this window. Lets you watch the story unfold. And gives you room to actually discover something for yourself. From your own experience that you can relate to. Where the author actually trusts you to think for yourself…. Gadzooks! That's an idea!LASTING IMPRESSIONS:When I first picked up this book, I admittedly had a predetermined opinion of whether I would even relate to this story. But what I found was…• An absolute roadmap to help me connect my own experience of tradition while following my dreams in my life that actually do take me very far away from home. • Some simple and really effective tools in creating connection in discussing and understanding different viewpoints. • An assurance to be okay with just simply not having all the answers yet. Or perhaps never!• And finally… The commitment to always honor those who came before me, who live within me and who will be influenced by me.Past. Present. Future…Hill Women by Cassie Chambers. Pick it up. You're going to love it. __________________________All my reviews can be seen at This Is My Everybody | Denise Wilbanks | T.I.M.E. at www.thisismyeverybody.com ... Including my free resources for book club support, reading and DIY home ideas inspired by each recommended book to support you in bringing your favorite book to life in your life and home…You can see my full review and resources for Hill Women by Cassie Chambers at https://www.thisismyeverybody.com/boo... ✨😎✨A big thank you to Cassie Chambers, Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine Books and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in my review are my own.
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  • Erin
    January 1, 1970
    Hill Women is a book chronicling the life of a young girl in Appalachia as she grows up. It tells her story and that of her family and friends, specifically the other strong women in her life The description for this book appealed to me immediately, as I spent time many years ago in high school doing volunteer work repairing and rebuilding homes in the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky and West Virginia. It was a life changing experience and left me in love with and in awe of the people in the Hill Women is a book chronicling the life of a young girl in Appalachia as she grows up. It tells her story and that of her family and friends, specifically the other strong women in her life The description for this book appealed to me immediately, as I spent time many years ago in high school doing volunteer work repairing and rebuilding homes in the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky and West Virginia. It was a life changing experience and left me in love with and in awe of the people in the region, so I knew this book would be right up my alley. While interesting, I found the very beginning of the book a bit hard to follow, as the timeline jumped around a bit, but once I got into this book, I absolutely could not put it down. The author did a fantastic job of describing the poverty and culture of the area in which she grew up, and the many problems they face, as well as the spirit of the people who live there. This is a story of perseverance, family connections, bravery, and the drive to better yourself and make a difference in your area. I highly recommend this book. The description is apt- it’s perfect for anyone who likes memoirs, and specifically, if you liked Hillbilly Elegy or Educated, you will definitely love this one. Many thanks to Cassie Chambers, Ballantine Books, and NetGalley for the advanced digital copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Susan
    January 1, 1970
    Hill Women is a part biography, part autobiography, and part sociological look at the lives of a family and extended family in the deep hills of Kentucky Appalachia. It is eye-opening and fascinating, and the way the author weaves this all together is quite magical. Cassie Chambers spent a lot of her youth with her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in the hills of Owsley County, among coal miners and tobacco farmers. Poverty was common, as was lack of much formal education. Cassie’s Hill Women is a part biography, part autobiography, and part sociological look at the lives of a family and extended family in the deep hills of Kentucky Appalachia. It is eye-opening and fascinating, and the way the author weaves this all together is quite magical. Cassie Chambers spent a lot of her youth with her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in the hills of Owsley County, among coal miners and tobacco farmers. Poverty was common, as was lack of much formal education. Cassie’s mother, Wilma, escaped this cycle and became the first woman in the family to graduate from college, from Berea College, and it’s in Berea that Cassie lived when she wasn’t with Granny and Papaw. Her parents instilled in her the thirst for knowledge, and through luck, determination, and grit, Cassie graduated from Yale and Harvard Law School. The stark, soul-searching insights of Ms. Chambers into her own perfectionism, of not quite fitting in in the elite, privileged world of the Ivy League, and her conflicts between being one of “them” or someone educated but always attached to her roots, make her story all the more powerful.After she became a lawyer, she was drawn back to the rolling hills of Kentucky, and eventually found a job with Legal Aid, working with women much like her own family. It’s hard to describe the truly magical nature of this book. Writing a memoir is hard enough, but adding the socio-political details in the form of data and statistics, not just anecdotes, makes this more than a memoir. And the stories of her family when she was a child are a virtual biography of her relatives. While at times the transition between themes felt a bit awkward, overall this is a wonderful, happy/sad/hardship/gritty story of several generations, with most of the generations staying where they were born. Highly recommended. I received this book as an ARC from the publisher and NetGalley
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  • abby
    January 1, 1970
    Despite the promises of the title, this book isn’t so much about hill women as it is about one woman, the author. To put it gently, she is not overly interesting. When she did veer into other people’s stories it was still people intimately connected to her: mother, grandmother, cousin, aunt. We need to get past this idea that everyone needs to write a memoir about their immediate relatives. I did learn about the fee-based justice system in rural Eastern Kentucky, but beyond that, this book is Despite the promises of the title, this book isn’t so much about hill women as it is about one woman, the author. To put it gently, she is not overly interesting. When she did veer into other people’s stories it was still people intimately connected to her: mother, grandmother, cousin, aunt. We need to get past this idea that everyone needs to write a memoir about their immediate relatives. I did learn about the fee-based justice system in rural Eastern Kentucky, but beyond that, this book is very average and there’s not much to recommend. If I were not reading it for review, I would have not bothered to finish it.
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  • Jill Dobbe
    January 1, 1970
    A fascinating read about growing up in the Appalachian hills where hard work, family and extreme poverty are the way of life. The author leaves her family and friends to pursue an education only to be drawn back to what she knows and carries in her heart. Hill Women takes readers into a part of the U.S. where the lives and culture is somewhat unknown and misunderstood.Cassie Chambers found a way to pursue her dreams of education outside Kentucky. She attended Yale and Harvard and for awhile, A fascinating read about growing up in the Appalachian hills where hard work, family and extreme poverty are the way of life. The author leaves her family and friends to pursue an education only to be drawn back to what she knows and carries in her heart. Hill Women takes readers into a part of the U.S. where the lives and culture is somewhat unknown and misunderstood.Cassie Chambers found a way to pursue her dreams of education outside Kentucky. She attended Yale and Harvard and for awhile, lived a life very different from the one she left. However, with her degrees and law experience in hand, she returned to the mountains to do what she could to help better the lives of the low-income women who lived there. Throughout the book Chambers writes about the women she counsels and fights for in court. She also describes the three strong women in her own life and how much they influenced her--Aunt Ruth, her Granny and her mother. Hill Women is an inspirational memoir about family values, perseverance, and hope, reminding readers of what is possible in life.Thank you to the author, Ballantine Books and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this ARC.
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  • Cass
    January 1, 1970
    Powerful, thought provoking and well written. I loved this memoir, love the strength of it all. A def must read. So glad Booklist sent it to me to review.
  • Jen
    January 1, 1970
    This was a fascinating memoir! I was completely caught up in her story and her stories of the women in this part of the country. Hill Women is thought provoking, moving, and powerful. A tale of survival, strength, and community. I loved it! Thank you to the publisher for the review copy in exchange for my honest review!
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  • Snooty1
    January 1, 1970
    What an absolutely eye-opening memoir. Reading allows you to be privy to the lives of many different people and to learn about the lives of Hill Women was exciting and honestly a point a view I had never thought about. Which is why I am so happy that Cassie Chambers represented herself and family with all the flaws and beauty of any normal family. It was a true pleasure to read.
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  • Susan
    January 1, 1970
    A publicist wrote, suggesting that since I’d enjoyed the book “Educated,” I’d probably also like “Hill Women” which releases in January. I took her word and read it.Hill Women is the memoir of Cassie Chambers. Cassie grew up in the hills of eastern Kentucky, which must be a pretty rough place. I could relate to some of what she wrote about: I, too, had a “Mamaw” and “Papaw.” I heard plenty of “ain’t” and country music. Although I grew up in southern Indiana, it wasn’t all that far from Kentucky, A publicist wrote, suggesting that since I’d enjoyed the book “Educated,” I’d probably also like “Hill Women” which releases in January. I took her word and read it.Hill Women is the memoir of Cassie Chambers. Cassie grew up in the hills of eastern Kentucky, which must be a pretty rough place. I could relate to some of what she wrote about: I, too, had a “Mamaw” and “Papaw.” I heard plenty of “ain’t” and country music. Although I grew up in southern Indiana, it wasn’t all that far from Kentucky, and “Kentuckian jokes” were regular fare in my childhood. Like Cassie, my high school mascot was an owl (hers because she grew up in Owsley County, mine — I’m not sure why).I enjoyed the first part of the book, where Cassie discusses her upbringing. Her mom, aunt, and grandma teach her what she says mountain women learn: the value of work, and that hard work pays off. “My mother built her life around teaching me,” Cassie writes, and due to that she succeeds. She goes to a fancy high school out-of-state, and ends up at Yale.Along the way, and especially once she leaves the community, Cassie begins to question her upbringing and her childhood home town. She looks at her parents’ and grandparents’ lives and isn’t very happy with them. “I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to satisfactorily square the gentleness, kindness, and love I saw between them with what I believe to be right and just.” This is where I feel her troubles begin — her mom and grandma seem happy with their lives, but Cassie isn’t. Cassie feels out of place in her Ivy League School. She is embarrassed when she takes her mom to New York City and her mom wears a fanny pack.After becoming a lawyer, Cassie returns to her hometown to represent poor people, often women who are in bad situations and can’t afford legal representation. This is admirable. But when Cassie later gets married, she marries in Louisville (to the former Louisville mayor’s lawyer son). None of her relatives attend: “Louisville might as well be Beijing as far as they’re concerned … They don’t have cellphones; I don’t know that they have ever seen a parking garage. They don’t know how to get around in a city the size of Louisville, let alone how to use a GPS to guide them.” I was really surprised, given her closeness to her relatives, that she didn’t get married at a place they could attend.Then, the final section of the book goes into her shock and distress over Donald Trump’s election. I shouldn’t be surprised I guess; once I started the book I found out that Cassie is vice-chair of the Kentucky Democrat Party. She struggles in this part of the book in my opinion, as she tries to square her admiration of her Kentucky relatives and their hard work with the fact that many of them support Trump. She talks with relatives until she finds some who tell her that their support for Trump is waning, and this leads her to feel hopeful: “Maybe our politics aren’t as divided as we think.” Ummm … because people come over to your way of thinking? Not sure it works that way.I feel this book would have been better as a childhood memoir. Once the author got political, I feel she alienated a large portion of her readers. Had I known that the book would get into her liberal politics, I would not have read it.
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  • Tasha
    January 1, 1970
    Not bad, just nothing all that exciting. I did enjoy learning more about what it was like growing up in the mountains of Kentucky, a very different life to mine so I always appreciate learning about how life is for others. Hearing about the justice system from the eyes and experiences of those from the area was generally interesting as well. In the later half of the book the author uses this platform to share her political beliefs which, unless I deliberately choose a book on politics, I'm not Not bad, just nothing all that exciting. I did enjoy learning more about what it was like growing up in the mountains of Kentucky, a very different life to mine so I always appreciate learning about how life is for others. Hearing about the justice system from the eyes and experiences of those from the area was generally interesting as well. In the later half of the book the author uses this platform to share her political beliefs which, unless I deliberately choose a book on politics, I'm not all that fond of reading. Thank you to Netgalley and Random House, Ballatine for an advanced digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Joyce
    January 1, 1970
    A wonderful profile of strong,determined women.Cassie Chambers the author comes from a small town in the Appalachian mountains.This book blows open the typical poverty stricken story that is written about Appalachia.From being poor to Harvard...follow her on this remarkable journey.Thankyou Netgalley and Random House Publishing for this ARC
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  • Tracy
    January 1, 1970
    This book was thought provoking, interesting and heart warming. You can tell that the author put her heart and soul into this love letter to her family and to Appalachia. As a person that was hoping our last election would have given us our first woman President, I've always had a hard time understanding how so many people in need of health care, better jobs and better living conditions could have voted for someone that really doesn't represent or understand them, or in actuality really care, This book was thought provoking, interesting and heart warming. You can tell that the author put her heart and soul into this love letter to her family and to Appalachia. As a person that was hoping our last election would have given us our first woman President, I've always had a hard time understanding how so many people in need of health care, better jobs and better living conditions could have voted for someone that really doesn't represent or understand them, or in actuality really care, but after reading this book I get it.I hope that this book gets a big following and is put into the hands of many readers of all backgrounds, because these people, these women, need to be heard!Read it everyone!
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  • Genna
    January 1, 1970
    I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.“For me, there is hope in the spirit of a people who find creative ways to exist in a community that has been systematically marginalized. In men and women who take care of each other even when the outside world does not take care of them. In people who broke their bodies in tobacco fields and coal mines to make a living in the only community they have ever known. We don’t take time to see it: the hope in the poverty, the I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.“For me, there is hope in the spirit of a people who find creative ways to exist in a community that has been systematically marginalized. In men and women who take care of each other even when the outside world does not take care of them. In people who broke their bodies in tobacco fields and coal mines to make a living in the only community they have ever known. We don’t take time to see it: the hope in the poverty, the spark against the dreary backdrop, the grit in the mountain women.”Hill Women speaks to the strength and resiliency of women and mothers in even the most oppressive of circumstances and the darkest depths of despair. As I’ve gotten older I’ve found myself more inclined to choose women’s stories and stories written by women, making Chambers’ memoir and tribute to women of her childhood holler a read I immediately gravitated towards. The experiences of the women in her family and their lives in one of the poorest counties in the United States is stark, powerful, and compelling. The thread of the story unraveled a bit for me as Chambers delved into her professional journey to become an Ivy League graduate and an attorney advocating for impoverished women in Appalachia, but she circles back in the final chapters, tying her personal development and hard-won triumphs to the sustained tenacity and perseverance of the long line of hill women she hails from. Hill Women touches on the opioid crisis, the deeply flawed justice system, the devastating effects of the decimation of the coal and tobacco industries, and rampant domestic violence, among other heavy hitting topics. The discussion of the rigid legal roadblocks and prohibitive court fees that prevent countless women from escaping their abusers and establishing agency and impoverished people from turning corners in their lives are particularly shocking and disheartening. Chambers provides nuance to these issues and their impact on a group of people largely misunderstood and blatantly misrepresented by American society at large. Her unique perspective on Appalachia and Owsley County, Kentucky offers an analysis that is respectful and understanding of her subject matter without overly romanticizing the challenges they face. Highly recommended.Quote was taken from an ARC and is subject to change upon publication.
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  • Eugenia
    January 1, 1970
    What a wonderful read this is, I don’t know much about the South and even less about Eastern Kentucky but this book did such a great job giving me an honest glimpse in the lives of mountain folks, Cassie Chambers did an amazing job not only introducing us, readers to her family but giving us an unbiased 360 look of the mountain life she was born into. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to any and all readers interested in learning about parts of this country and the people who live What a wonderful read this is, I don’t know much about the South and even less about Eastern Kentucky but this book did such a great job giving me an honest glimpse in the lives of mountain folks, Cassie Chambers did an amazing job not only introducing us, readers to her family but giving us an unbiased 360 look of the mountain life she was born into. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to any and all readers interested in learning about parts of this country and the people who live there. It’s often so hard to really get a good and truthful glimpse in the lives that I, as a woman living in Northern California, am so far from in my own life experiences. Chambers’ family and friends now feel much more real to me than invisible people who I occasionally see in news headlines about the general region,
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  • Katie
    January 1, 1970
    Cassie Chambers paints an honest and moving portrait of what it means to grow up in the heart of the Appalachian mountains. It's a coming of age story, but it's also so much more than that. It's a heartfelt love letter to the mountains themselves and to the strength of the generations that came before her. The author does a beautiful job of dissecting the delicate balance between need and pride, between poor in pockets and rich in spirit, between strength and vulnerability.Cassie's story centers Cassie Chambers paints an honest and moving portrait of what it means to grow up in the heart of the Appalachian mountains. It's a coming of age story, but it's also so much more than that. It's a heartfelt love letter to the mountains themselves and to the strength of the generations that came before her. The author does a beautiful job of dissecting the delicate balance between need and pride, between poor in pockets and rich in spirit, between strength and vulnerability.Cassie's story centers around one of the poorest countries in the US; Owsley County, Kentucky. But her story doesn't end there. She left to pursue her education, attended multiple Ivy League colleges and graduated from Harvard Law School. Perhaps this is where her story takes the most compelling turn. Cassie could have gone anywhere, but she returns to Kentucky with a passion to help those just like her and her family.I was so impacted by this book. I now live at the edge of Appalachia. My mom and her family are from the hills of West Virginia. I've never lived life in the mountains, but this book helped me understand why I've always been drawn to the mountains and why they have such an important place in my heart. Yes, the scenery is incredible, but the spirit of the people is where even deeper beauty lies.I'm grateful to Cassie Chambers, Ballantine Books, and NetGalley for the advanced digital copy of this book. All thoughts, ratings and opinions in this review are my own.
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  • Sacha
    January 1, 1970
    I'm really glad I read this. My excitement about this book came from not knowing AT ALL how I'd react to it. I possessed - prior to reading - every stereotypical thought about this region that Chambers acknowledges throughout. Also, I wanted more than an education-showed-me-the-way-out narrative; I got much more.For me, the best part of this work by far is the focus on the women in Cassie's family. It's impossible to not love them, and when the narrative turns more toward Cassie's experience in I'm really glad I read this. My excitement about this book came from not knowing AT ALL how I'd react to it. I possessed - prior to reading - every stereotypical thought about this region that Chambers acknowledges throughout. Also, I wanted more than an education-showed-me-the-way-out narrative; I got much more.For me, the best part of this work by far is the focus on the women in Cassie's family. It's impossible to not love them, and when the narrative turns more toward Cassie's experience in Part Two, I'll admit that I started to lose interest a bit. It's not that Cassie's life and experiences aren't gripping on their own; her family members are just SO likable, and I didn't want to step away from them. The good part is that they aren't ever actually gone. I loved reading about the titular characters in this work: Hill Women...Cassie included, when it came down to it. Readers gain a lot of insight into the region, the richness of these characters' experiences, the circumstances of rural poverty, and the empowerment these women create in the most - at times - disempowering situations. Here comes the reason that I tacked on a spoiler alert: the epilogue killed me. KILLED ME. There were parts of this narrative that I found a little longer or less engaging, but that ending...devastating and perfect.
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  • Anja
    January 1, 1970
    This part memoir, part family history in Appalachia provides a strong narrative about what life is like in the hills both today, and in the more recent past. I enjoyed seeing the hill communities and their beliefs and relationships through the viewpoint of the matrilineal line of the author, Cassie Chambers. For me, the rural part of my state, especially in certain areas, faces very similar challenges to Appalachia such as brain drain, drug addiction, loss of jobs and industries and it's This part memoir, part family history in Appalachia provides a strong narrative about what life is like in the hills both today, and in the more recent past. I enjoyed seeing the hill communities and their beliefs and relationships through the viewpoint of the matrilineal line of the author, Cassie Chambers. For me, the rural part of my state, especially in certain areas, faces very similar challenges to Appalachia such as brain drain, drug addiction, loss of jobs and industries and it's overwhelmingly hopeful to hear we aren't the only ones in this situation, and that others are also digging into it with compassion and realism and seeing it through a very human lens. Because these things are not the defining feature of rural America- there's so many positives that can be easy for others to overlook. For me, this makes a much stronger case and a broader viewpoint than "Hillbilly Elegy" which I read many years ago, looking for hope and a familiar face to my rural America. The author, Chambers, doesn't claim to have all the answers, nor does she claim to be a one-woman superhero. Chambers regularly acknowledges her privilege and the opportunities that were opened to her that didn't necessarily open for others. Overall, I loved reading this and breezed through it in just a couple days. I'd love to continue to explore this topic more with additional rural authors. Keep the hope for rural America alive.Thanks to Random House Publishing for awarding me an Advanced Reader Copy via a Goodreads giveaway!
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  • Sharon
    January 1, 1970
    I’ve been interested in Appalachia since discovering the Foxfire books during my hippy era. Their terrain and strong relationships are worlds away from mine, growing up in Southern California. I’ve read Homer Hickham’s series, several of Rick Bragg’s books and J.D. Vance’s recent book, Hillbilly Elegy, which left me with a feeling of loss and hopelessness. Along comes Hill Women with Cassie’s passion for her hills and people and determination to improve their lives with better education and I’ve been interested in Appalachia since discovering the Foxfire books during my hippy era. Their terrain and strong relationships are worlds away from mine, growing up in Southern California. I’ve read Homer Hickham’s series, several of Rick Bragg’s books and J.D. Vance’s recent book, Hillbilly Elegy, which left me with a feeling of loss and hopelessness. Along comes Hill Women with Cassie’s passion for her hills and people and determination to improve their lives with better education and health. It is a much different book than the others I’ve read and reminds a little of the blind men discovering the elephant. She sees hope for her hill people and has gone back to her roots to help bring about that change.I had to remind myself that this was not a depression era story. The author is the age of my children yet the lack of resources and education made it feel like something from previous decades. Cassie’s grandmother and her mother Wilma recognized the imperative of education, so Wilma was the first to graduate from high school and then the first to graduate from college and from there, doors opened up. In turn they supported Cassie’s educational journey which ended with a degree from Harvard school of law. On top of education needing improvement, health and nutrition are high on the the author’s “needs improvement” list, as is access to affordable health care. It’s easy to point fingers at the high-fat diet as the root of poor health, but it’s not easy when fresh produce is in short supply. And then there are the toxins from mining and agriculture in the soil and ground water that might explain some of the odd autoimmune disorders. And worse still, there’s the meth and opioid crisis. Those are just some of the obstacles that are in the face of change, but instead of crying “poor me,” the author writes a book of hope. I always love reading “triumph of the human spirit” stories and this is one them. Seeing hill people through a woman’s eyes is a different part of the elephant for me. She says, “Over the years, I’ve seen many strong mountain people take the hillbilly label and wear it proudly. As one of my friends told me, ‘I don’t mind being called a hillbilly. Hillbilly is a culture, the culture of the mountain people. But Lord, don’t call me a redneck. You can be a redneck anywhere. You can only be a hillbilly in these mountains.”
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  • The Lexington Bookie
    January 1, 1970
    Hill Women was an immediate NetGalley request because it encompassed a lot about Kentucky literacy, poverty, and growth, which have all been a topic of focus for me over the past year and change. When the request was accepted, I worked it into my review rotation, and funny enough, it came shortly after I finished The Giver of Stars. As I started reading Hill Women, I recognized a lot of information that I had researched post The Giver of Stars.To share, here are some facts and comparisons about Hill Women was an immediate NetGalley request because it encompassed a lot about Kentucky literacy, poverty, and growth, which have all been a topic of focus for me over the past year and change. When the request was accepted, I worked it into my review rotation, and funny enough, it came shortly after I finished The Giver of Stars. As I started reading Hill Women, I recognized a lot of information that I had researched post The Giver of Stars.To share, here are some facts and comparisons about Kentucky literacy.-Literacy rate in Kentucky, 1930s (the time period where Packhorse Libraries began in KY) – 31%--Population was about 2.6 million people-Literacy rate in Kentucky, 2019:--Level 1 (no or minimal ability to read) – 14%---About 34,000 people--Level 2 (up to a 5th grade reading level) – 26%---About 656,000 people--Population is about 4.5 million people-Compare 1930 literacy to today’s literacy rates:--Currently about 15% of Kentucky has the ability to read at a 5th grade level, which means Kentucky has cut their literacy rate by half in about 90 years.--However, Kentucky ranks 45th / 50 states for education and literacy rates.So now that you have a picture of what Kentucky literacy looks like, you can start to realize the importance of Chambers’ memoir, in which she recounts the impact of education on her family and the town she grew up in. Going into great detail of her past, Chambers discusses her family’s deep roots in Cow Creek, located in Owsley County (about 55 miles southeast from Berea, KY) and how poverty has stunted the educational growth of it’s citizens. Her papaw was a tobacco sharecropper, and her granny pinched every penny to keep her family afloat. Chamber’s granny encouraged her mother to go to school and eventually attend Berea College, in the hopes that it would give her a chance at a better life where they wouldn’t have to stretch every dollar to afford life’s necessities.As Chambers continues, she shows how her grandmother, aunt, and mother shaped her own future, and how their mountain women strength kept her grounded in her roots as she searched for her own purpose. She delves into the pressure of what it feels like to fit into a place you’re not certain you belong, of going outside of your comfort zones, and how in the end, you have to be true to yourself instead of trying to be like everyone else. For Chambers, this lead to returning to Kentucky and becoming a defense lawyer for men and women in need.Overall, I really enjoyed Chamber’s insight into the rural and rugged population of Kentucky. Her writing is factual and blunt, but embedded with strength, emotion, and honesty. It’s easy to see why her clients would want her defending them- she wants to see justice and genuine progress in a system that has oppressed many impoverished Kentucky residents for years. Her call for change is loud and clear, just as her pride in the hill women that have inspired her.
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  • Lucille Bransfield
    January 1, 1970
    This was so well done. I really knew nothing about Appalachia. I’m amazed at what these women have done and accomplished in their lives. I enjoyed meeting all of the people in this family, and extended family. Cassie and her mom Wilma are amazing examples of determination. I am so glad that I was allowed an early read through Netgalley.
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  • Judy
    January 1, 1970
    Open your eyes and learn about the wonders of life in the Appalacian Mountains. See and hear the people who make it their home. Be spellbound as the story moves you. Feel the hardships but, most importantly, feel the triumphs and joy of family and neighbors.As a nation, small towns in Kentucky are mostly forgotten. We live our lives and don't appreciate what we have until we hear about others. Although we may be doing better in our jobs, we are certainly lost in the neighborly way. Gone are the Open your eyes and learn about the wonders of life in the Appalacian Mountains. See and hear the people who make it their home. Be spellbound as the story moves you. Feel the hardships but, most importantly, feel the triumphs and joy of family and neighbors.As a nation, small towns in Kentucky are mostly forgotten. We live our lives and don't appreciate what we have until we hear about others. Although we may be doing better in our jobs, we are certainly lost in the neighborly way. Gone are the days when we play with our neighbors. Gone are the days where we're safe in our homes. In the mountains this is the opposite. It's pure life.Beautifully written. True story. I highly recommend this book.Cassie, thank you for sharing your story with the world.
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