cover image Bettyville


George Hodgman. Viking, $27.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-525-42720-9

Hodgman's memoir chronicles his return home to care for his mother in the small Missouri town where he grew up. His relocation provides the veteran book editor and writer an opportunity for re-evaluating his life while assuming care of Betty, his ailing, widowed, and willful 90-year-old mother. Hodgman's narrative alternates between describing the joys and stresses of his daily caretaking tasks, giving close analysis of his life growing up gay in a smalltown. Hodgman also chronicles his long struggle to understand and become comfortable in his own skin, ruminating over the decades his family muffled discussion of his sexuality. Hodgman attended college, then moved to New York at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, which greatly affected his view of the world. As Betty's health declines, Hodgman is buoyed by the friendships and familiarities provided by smalltown life. Hodgman includes a cast of characters from his hometown, as well as people he encountered professionally and romantically in New York. The author's continuous low-key humor infuses the memoir with refreshing levity, without diminishing the emotional toll of being the sole health-care provider to an elderly parent. This is an emotionally honest portrayal of a son's secrets and his unending devotion to his mother. (Mar.)