Tuesday 1 September 2020

BETTY by Tiffany McDaniel

'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. 

This is a book that caught my eye because so many people were talking about it on Twitter, and I was definitely interested in checking it out myself.

Betty was born in a bathtub in 1954 and is the sixth of eight children. Her father is Cherokee and her mother is white, but she looks just like her father. A fact everyone likes to point out, in the cruelest way possible.

After moving around the country for years, the Carpenters return to their hometown of Breathed, Ohio. To a house that may be cursed. Into a world where poverty and violence aren't enough to steal Betty's resilient and curious nature, or her love for hearing and telling stories...

Wow. This is such a heavy and sad story. It's also awesome. Every word weighs on your heart and soul, will totally tear you apart if you let it. And trust me, you most definitely will.  

The best way I can describe this book is like this: it reminds me of a rose. Roses are beautiful and entice you to get closer but when you do, sharp thorns are waiting to bite into your skin. It'll hurt and will probably make you bleed, but you won't be able to let go.

That's exactly what this book does.

It's engaging, the prose so lyrical that before I realised what was happening, I was hooked. I was totally invested in Betty and her family, so the more I felt for these characters, the harder it was when the awful stuff starts to happen. And there's a lot of awful stuff lurking in the pages of this fantastic book.

Things that made my blood boil because racism and the cruelty of injustice always gets under my skin and makes me so damn angry. Also, because assholes hurting kids is another thing I despise. And there's plenty of this in the narrative. But the abuse isn't always external, because there's plenty of shitty things happening within the home. 

The characters in this book are all intriguing and interesting in their own way. Betty is such an adorable girl with a stubborn streak. She looks at the world in such a unique way, and it's mainly because of her devoted father. Landon is such a great and kind man full of positive things to say about everything. The way he magically spins a yarn around all facets of the world and life help shape who Betty is and what she becomes. He's a kind spirit who loves Betty, while her mother is often the complete opposite.

I've always had a weakness for family sagas--you can probably blame Virginia Andrews for that--and this one definitely fit the bill.

Betty is an amazing story about an incredibly strong girl and her unconventional family. It's packed with myths and legends full of wonder. It's raw and rough. Whimsical and endearing. So much of what happens is devastating, but I couldn't put it down.

It's such an excellent book about the strength of girls and women, as well as the weaknesses forced on them by vile men. It was also inspired by the life of Tiffany McDaniel's mother, and so much of what happens is as ugly as it is beautiful.

I'm really glad I read this incredible story of resilience, strength and survival because I absolutely loved it.

Thank you Hachette Australia for sending me a copy!

Betty, August 2020, ISBN 9781474617536, W&N 

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