Betty

Tiffany McDaniel. Knopf, $27.95 (480p) ISBN 978-0-525-65707-1
McDaniel bases her raw if overwrought bildungsroman (after The Summer That Melted Everything) on the life of her mother. Born in 1954, narrator Betty is one of eight siblings whose cherished father, Landon Carpenter, a Cherokee, tells wondrous tales, and whose mother, Alka Lark, shares cruel truths (“God hates us,” she says, referring to women). Betty recounts poverty, puberty, and the tragic loss of one sibling after the other. Betty looks like Landon and is abused at school by the prejudiced children and teachers of Breathed, Ohio. The episodic narrative revolves around Betty’s struggles over whether to divulge a family secret involving incest and rape at the story’s rotten core. Along the way, Landon, a finely rendered character, dispenses most of the wisdom (“Some people are as beautiful and soft as peonies, others as hard as a mountain”), but McDaniel gives Betty exceedingly precocious insights (at nine: “William Shakespeare wrote my father a Romeo heart and a Hamlet mind at the same time Henry David Thoreau composed him to have sympathy toward nature and a longing for paradise to be regained”). Still, she brilliantly describes Betty’s self-image based on her father’s stories of their ancestors. McDaniel is an ambitious and sincere writer, and occasionally her work transcends. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 06/09/2020
Release date: 08/18/2020
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 496 pages - 978-1-9848-9794-7
Paperback - 704 pages - 978-0-593-34232-9
Book - 1 pages - 978-0-525-65708-8
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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