I found it so engaging and fascinating that I read it in one shot.
One aspect that I fond particularly interesting, and that hasn't been mentioned yet here, is how even after he "made it," Vance still felt like an outsider. He didn't have all the same social assumptions as his fellow lawyers. It reminded me a lot of the immigrant experience, of my own experience as a Anglophone growing up in francophone Quebec, of the experiences of missionary/military/diplomatic children brought up outside their "home" country.
I thought he did a pretty good job of considering the ways in which policy could and could not help improve the situation of his hillbilly relatives.
Everyone from somewhere else focused on how eye-opening it was and how "now I understand these people!"
Everyone from the local area - we are in the Appalachian mountains - talked about how deeply offensive it was. That included me. One short disclaimer in an introduction does not undo the damage of negative stereotypes and generalizations, some stated overtly, throughout the book itself.
This book will set the people of the region back several years in terms of equity and acceptance from other Americans.
Interesting. I am definitely "from somewhere else" (Vermont, California, Canada, China) and I had quite a different reaction. The book gave me a clearer picture, I think, of hillbilly life, but I would not say "I understand these people" now. If anything, I find some of their choices more baffling. At the same time, the book certainly didn't worsen my opinion of them. Granted, I was already sympathetic, because I automatically sympathise with people despised by liberals; but my overall takeaway was not of negative generalizations. For instance, Vance very vividly conveys how violent, foulmouthed people can simultaneously be inspiring sources of strength and support.
He also shows how yes, some people make self-destructive choices, but the range of action open to many of them is also very limited. Perhaps most striking of all is the sense that while many people want a better life in some way, they can't clearly articulate what that means, much less identify the steps necessary to achieve it, in part because they've had so little exposure to anything different as a model to follow. On that note I was pleased to hear Vance say in a radio interview that he and his wife (and now child) are planning to move back to Ohio.