Review – Betty by Tiffany McDaniel

Posted October 9, 2020 by Carole in 2020 New Release Challenge, Book Reviews / 9 Comments

Betty by Tiffany McDaniel
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication Date: August 18, 2020
Date Read: October 3, 2020
Length: 416 pages
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

A stunning, lyrical
novel set in the rolling foothills of the Appalachians in which a young
girl discovers stark truths that will haunt her for the rest of her

“A girl comes of age against the knife.”

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. The lush landscape,
rich with birdsong, wild fruit, and blazing stars, becomes a kind of
refuge for Betty, but when her family’s darkest secrets are brought to
light, she 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.

But 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. She recounts the horrors of
her family’s past and present with pen and paper and buries them deep in
the dirt–moments that has stung her so deeply, she could not tell
them, until now.

Inspired by the life of her own mother, Tiffany
McDaniel sets out to free the past by telling this heartbreaking yet
magical story–a remarkable novel that establishes her as one of the
freshest and most important voices in American fiction.

My Review

Another winner from Tiffany McDaniel!  I read her first book The Summer That Melted Everything when it was released four years ago and was blown away so I was pretty eager to get my hands on her newest novel.  Both books are set in the same town of Breathed, Ohio and there were a few quick glimpses of some familiar characters but otherwise, these were two very different stories.  I ended up loving this book just as much as I loved her previous novel.  

It did take me a long time to read this book.  One reason is that my life has been absolutely crazy for the past few months and time to read has been hard to come by.  Another reason, and probably a bigger one, was the fact that I really needed to process some of the scenes in this book.  This book is based on the life of the author’s mother which made it even more heart-wrenching.  This was a book that I wanted to savor every moment of and I am glad that I took my time and really gave Betty the time that she deserved.  
This book tells the story of Betty and the rest of the Carpenter family.  We see Betty’s mother and father meet, marry, and bring their children into the world.  Betty’s father is Cherokee and she is darker like him which makes life difficult for her in 1960’s Ohio.  Her family was poor but they made things work.  Her father had a garden that helped to feed the family and used his knowledge of plants and herbs to make medicines for the local community.  We see the challenges that all of her family members face through Betty’s eyes and hear their stories through Betty’s ears.  I was often just as horrified as Betty was.
The writing was just as fantastic as the story.  I love the way that the author was able to share an event in such brilliant detail that I felt like I could actually see what was happening.  Betty’s family was quite large but I felt like I knew her brothers and sisters almost as well as Betty.  The story had a wonderful and I found myself wanting to go over certain passages more than once just because I felt the power and beauty of the words.
I would highly recommend this book to others.  This was a wonderful story of resilience and strength even when things were at the lowest point.  Tiffany McDaniel has cemented her position as an author I plan to follow. 
I received a digital review copy of this book from Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group via NetGalley.

About the Author

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

Author Links: Website | Goodreads

9 responses to “Review – Betty by Tiffany McDaniel

  1. I am sure I would enjoy this story but not during this crazy year. I feel "beat up" enough. Excellent review!

    Anne – Books of My Heart