It's been a number of years since I read this but I remember it really opened my eyes to the way many people live in this country. I was shocked to read about families living in motel rooms, or waitresses sleeping in vans in the parking lot of the fast food restaurant where they work. Many people ask why the homeless don't just get jobs (haha), not realizing that quite often the homeless do in fact have jobs, sometimes more than one.
This book has gotten a lot of criticism, due to the author's less than authentic journey into poverty. Yes, she allowed herself a safety net of a car and some starting money, not to mention a way out if things got too hard--all which she admits. And her experience might not be absolutely definitive of that of a truly poor person, as she makes decisions and purchases coming from the mindset of someone who is used to having money. Her conversations with co-workers--people who are actually in this situation, with no safety net or easy way out--are the real revelations. And I think that Ehrenreich ultimately makes her point--that wages are too low to meet the cost of living--quite effectively.