Tiffany McDaniel’s incredible novel Betty broke me. It’s the coming-of-age story of Betty Carpenter. Born in a bathtub in 1954, Betty, the sixth of eight children, was raised for most of her life in the foothills of the Ohio Appalachians. Her father Landon Carpenter is a proud Cherokee married to her mother, Alka Lark, who is white. While her siblings look more like her mother, Betty is most like her father, with dark skin.
The family is poor but Landon provides his children with inventive storytelling rooted in Cherokee myths and legends. From blazing stars to a bird living in a glass heart, the stories are magical. Betty develops a creative mind and becomes a storyteller in her own right. The support and love, especially from her father, does not prepare Betty for the hatred she faces once she enters school. Betty experiences racial hatred not only from the other children but from the faculty. While her mother tells Betty that she is not pretty like her sisters, it is the sweet and wonderful relationship with her father that keeps Betty strong and believing in herself.
Betty comes to learn the truth of generational abuse hidden within her own family shaking her entire foundation. It is way too much for a child to deal with this type of trauma and it’s very hard to read about it.
Betty is based on the author’s mother Betty and her family which makes the story even more heartbreaking. The writing is stunning and lyrical. I kept noting favorite passages when I realized almost every word in this book is worth savoring. It is rare for a book to stir up so much emotion. I highly recommend this book.
I am so glad that the author reached out to me to read Betty in advance of its publication. Thank you, thank you Tiffany McDaniel. And thanks to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group / Random House and NetGalley.
Content Warning: the book includes some passages of sexual abuse that might be too disturbing for some readers.
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.
Publication Date: August 18, 2020.
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