Book review: Bettyville

I review a lot of books here, because I like to read, and it keeps me out of bar fights – for the most part. Most books I like just fine. Sometimes there are books that are like mustard to me – eww eww eww. And very rarely, there are books that I want to marry. Except I’m already married. And I’m pretty sure you can’t marry a book.

I want to marry this book.

Bettyville: A Memoir by George Hodgman is just … so … oh. It’s George’s account of moving from NYC back to his small Missouri hometown to care for his ailing mother, Betty. She’s fading, and the small town is fading, and George isn’t sure where he fits in with it all – or if he ever has.

Oh, and he’s a gay man whose parents never made peace with “how he is.” And his mother has dementia.

Sounds like a real pick-me-up, right? Funny thing, though – it’s really life-affirming.

The memoir is packed with moments like when Betty says, “I bet you wish I would die.” And George’s response is, “Not until you eat this damn meat loaf.” It’s an authentic dance between 2 people who love each other despite not understanding each other, told by a narrator who has an ear for dialogue and an eye for beauty.

I mean, there’s an entire scene wherein his aunt sits on the porch to be with an alcoholic family friend who can’t get out of his car. She just doesn’t want him to be alone. Peace be still.

This book is honest and authentic and just lovely. It’s one of those books where any description – at least in my feeble hands – won’t do it justice. So, the best I can do is to tell you to go and get this book. You won’t regret it.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Bettyville 9 packs of dogs.

I’m a sucker for books about the Midwest. Any favorites that you’d recommend?

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  • Reply Becky September 10, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    I think I read a review of this book somewhere and then forgot to put it on my list of books I want to read, so thank you for the reminder! (I also need to put the Duff book on my list, so thanks for that one too!).

    I just started the complete collection of short stories by Clarice Lispector, a Brazilian writer. I read a fascinating review of it in my Sunday NYTimes Book review section and was delighted to find the local library had it. So far, it's living up to the hype.

  • Reply Green Girl in Wisconsin September 13, 2015 at 1:22 am

    We need to read this for book club. You make it sound perfect.

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