My enormous thanks to author Tiffany McDaniel for ensuring I received a copy of BETTY in return for an honest review. I have been desperate to read Tiffany’s book The Summer That Melted Everything but along with so many others it is still sitting on my TBR pile, so I thought I’d dive straight in to BETTY.
Published today, 18th August 2020, by Weidenfeld and Nicholson, BETTY is available for purchase through the links here.
‘A girl comes of age against the knife’
So begins the story of Betty Carpenter
Born in a bathtub in 1954 to a Cherokee father and white mother, Betty is the sixth of eight siblings. The world they inhabit is one of poverty and violence – both from outside the family and also, devastatingly, from within. When her family’s darkest secrets are brought to light, Betty has no choice but to reckon with the brutal history hiding in the hills, as well as the heart-wrenching cruelties and incredible characters she encounters in her rural town of Breathed, Ohio.
Despite the hardship she faces, Betty is resilient. Her curiosity about the natural world, her fierce love for her sisters and her father’s brilliant stories are kindling for the fire of her own imagination, and in the face of all she bears witness to, Betty discovers an escape: she begins to write.
A heartbreaking yet magical story, BETTY is a punch-in-the-gut of a novel – full of the crushing cruelty of human nature and the redemptive power of words.
My Review of Betty
I had no idea what kind of book I would be reading when I picked up BETTY and when it opened with a biblical quotation I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to like it. I was completely wrong. Betty is utterly fabulous. Tiffany McDaniel has produced an intense narrative that has a truly physical effect on the reader. Reading BETTY is a visceral and affecting experience and I’d defy any reader to remain unchanged by it.
Based on the author’s mother, BETTY is the story of one particular female whilst simultaneously being the possible story of every female through time, or even the story of the Earth herself. This book is a song to womanhood but also to what it means to be a father and husband. Betty’s voice is so clear that it is as if the reader is inside her head as she describes her life as a young child. Her relationships with her siblings, her mother and, especially her father, are conveyed exquisitely. At times I wasn’t sure I could bear to read what might happen next in Betty’s story because I found it so realistic and so touching. I wept several times during my reading.
Written in a memoir style, events are balanced so perfectly that all aspects from love to brutality are conveyed in a way that touches the soul of the reader. Tiffany McDaniel writes about incest, rape and violence as well as nature and belonging, with poetry, with humanity and with an understanding of human nature that is astounding. Her characterisation is so fabulous that it is impossible not to be caught up in the lives of Betty and her family. I loved Betty’s father unconditionally despite some of his actions and my heart broke for the way Betty learnt life’s lessons. Every single family member is clear and distinct so that I know they will all remain with me for a very long time.
The themes in BETTY are sadly terrifyingly familiar in a modern world but presented through innovative writing making them all the more convincing. From various forms of abuse, including prejudicial and sexual, to identity and mental health, all life thrums through the pages of BETTY. I cannot imagine anyone with a shred of humanity in their soul not being totally spellbound by this story.
BETTY is written with beauty and skill, but above all else it is written with love and I absolutely adored it. It’s heart-achingly wonderful. I fear BETTY will be a quiet book with the length and content matter putting off readers, but anyone who doesn’t have the opportunity to discover Tiffany McDaniel’s magical, heart rending and affecting creation is really missing out. I adored it and thought it quite wonderful.
About Tiffany McDaniel
Tiffany McDaniel is a novelist, poet, and visual artist born and raised in Ohio. She is the author of The Summer That Melted Everything and BETTY.
You can find out more by visiting her website.