Thank you to the author for sending me a free copy of Betty in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
So begins the story of Betty Carpenter. Born in a bathtub in 1954 to a white mother and a Cherokee father, Betty is the sixth of eight siblings. The world they inhabit in the rural town of Breathed, Ohio, is one of poverty and violence–both from outside the family and, 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.
Despite the hardships 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 to which she bears witness, 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 have stung her so deeply she could not share them, until now.
Inspired by generations of her family, Tiffany McDaniel sets out to free the past by delivering this heartbreaking yet magical story–a remarkable novel that establishes her as one of the most important voices in American fiction.
A bold and vibrant story about family, Betty is one of those books that stays with you for a long time. I loved getting to know the tough-as-nails Betty, as well as her enigmatic father and other family members. This family’s story is one of love and strength and overcoming all the difficulties life has to throw at you.
I do feel it is important, however, to mention that this book comes loaded with trigger warnings. Graphic scenes of rape and violence made sure to tell the whole story, every gritty detail of it, but I don’t think I am necessarily a fan of that. I personally felt like the novel became an account of every bad thing possible, and that took focus away from the depth of the characters and what could have been shown of their inner struggle. I wish the focus had been more on how the family reacted to these events and how they got through them, but the extreme focus on the actual events took center stage instead.
With that being said, I have to keep in mind that this book does represent the struggles of poverty, women, racial injustice and so much more. So it could be argued that this book is very real and shouldn’t be criticized. I have also kept in mind that this novel is based on a real life. So I will just say this: if you are ok with dark content and deep stories, then this book will probably work well for you.