Weaving the brackish humor of Chuck Palahniuk with the empathy of Barbara Ehrenreich, J. R. Helton brings to life an obscured underside of the American psyche in this unflinching account of life inside the working class of Texas in the 1980s. We first meet Helton as a struggling writer succumbing to the bleak reality of what it means to support himself and a wife. That despair is transformed into resilience as Helton insightfully narrates his wayward years, enduring hateful employers and mind-numbing manual labor. Along the way, he introduces us to the real people toiling beneath the saccharine veneer of wealth that was the Reagan years: the ambitious and the lazy, the potheads and racists-as well as Vietnam vets too shaken to hold a paintbrush, deadbeat fathers straining to pay child support, and the casual murderer. Raw and moving, Bad Jobs and Poor Decisions captures a microcosm of tattered America that straddles that dangerous line between ruin and redemption.