[ 1 minutes to read ]
I came to this book with the typical mythos of the Hatfield-McCoy feud. I had heard the caricaturized and stereotyped, cartoon-like version of the feud. So I thought it was all about moonshining hillbillies fighting over a hog and the tragic love story of two young’uns wanting to intermarry between the families. Well it wasn’t quite like that and the real story, at least as close as we can get to it, is far more serious, complex, and tragic than many realize.
Alther, the author, has some connection with the feud in her ancestry and grew up in the mountains not too far from where the historic feuding took place. I suppose these things converged to inspire her later in life to take a more detailed look at the history and the result is a valuable contribution to American history in general and Appalachian history in particular.
I appreciate the integrity she brought to this book and that’s what makes it so valuable for the history it covers. She did not oversimplify the feud or the time in which it took place. She considered the socioeconomic aspects that were contributing factors to some extent. She minimized conjecture and speculation and pointed out areas where there were conflicting accounts and missing information such that we will never know all that happened.
Alther discusses other feuds from the region and time period as well. Some of those were worse in some respects than the Hatfield-McCoy feud. She asserts that the Hatfield-McCoy feud got more press though because it was easily stereotyped and caricaturized because it was among the uncouth, uneducated hillbillies where some of the other feuds involved some from higher ranks of society like doctors and lawyers. She makes a good point but it’s hard to say with certainty.
More could be said but I will leave it with a good recommendation to read this book. This book covers one of the most well-known events of American history that we actually know very little about in terms of the truth.