Rust: A Memoir of Steel and Grit by Eliese Colette Goldbach
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Time taken to read - 1.5 days
Pages - 308
Publisher - Quercus
Source - Review copy
Blurb from Goodreads
One woman's story of working in the backbreaking steel industry to rebuild her life—but what she uncovers in the mill is much more than molten metal and grueling working conditions. Under the mill's orange flame she finds hope for the unity of America.
Steel is the only thing that shines in the belly of the mill...
To ArcelorMittal Steel Eliese is known as #6691: Utility Worker, but this was never her dream. Fresh out of college, eager to leave behind her conservative hometown and come to terms with her Christian roots, Eliese found herself applying for a job at the local steel mill. The mill is everything she was trying to escape, but it's also her only shot at financial security in an economically devastated and forgotten part of America.
In Rust, Eliese brings the reader inside the belly of the mill and the middle American upbringing that brought her there in the first place. She takes a long and intimate look at her Rust Belt childhood and struggles to reconcile her desire to leave without turning her back on the people she's come to love. The people she sees as the unsung backbone of our nation.
Faced with the financial promise of a steelworker’s paycheck, and the very real danger of working in an environment where a steel coil could crush you at any moment or a vat of molten iron could explode because of a single drop of water, Eliese finds unexpected warmth and camaraderie among the gruff men she labors beside each day.
Appealing to readers of Hillbilly Elegy and Educated, Rust is a story of the humanity Eliese discovers in the most unlikely and hellish of places, and the hope that therefore begins to grow.
i don't know why but I thought this was going to be quite heavy on emotional/angst side, it wasn't that at all. Eliese had set ideas on the steel mills growing up as well as religion and politics. As Eliese becomes an adult and things happen in her life she finds herself not only questions but 360 on quite a lot of the ideas she had growing up.
Rust takes us into the steel mills, what it is like to work in a perilous environment, where one mistake can literally be death to you or a co worker. The hazards, the problems being a woman in this environment, the difference between being a new start and becoming an established part of the team with union cover and job protection. The stories of folk who have died in the company, the very real hazards, even in the departments most sought after. Eliese takes us on the journey of her life, through this very male dominated work force, money at the top and how current politics affects the job.
Aside from this, we have to remember this is a true story memoir and we get the rest of Eliese's lie experiences. A very honest and brutal look at mental health, how it affected her day to day life, relationships, good days and bad and a sexual attack and the impact that had on her and her views.
I am not a fan of politics but it was interesting to see how Goldbach examined hers and challenged her family, over dinner as you imagine with the current political issues this is happening across the globe, in many variations.
The book does jump around a wee bit, in time, from the job and heading back to growing up, ideas formed, back to current day/work back to college and what happened there. Her mental health is discussed sporadically throughout the book. When it comes up it does go into very vivid details cataloguing some of the episodes she survived or getting through that particular day. Then we go back to the steel mill and what was happening in that recounting. I really enjoyed the steel mill stuff as it isn't something I have ever thought about or read so I found it fascinating, the jumps may be a bit distracting to some readers but once she got into her stride, be it the mental health encounters or the mill I found it pretty fascinating and didn't want to stop reading. 4/5 for me this time, I think I would like to read more on the mills and prior to this book I doubt that is a sentence I would have thought let alone said. A raw and brave look into a woman's life who has battled so much and came out fighting at the other end.