This tragic story is narrated by Arcade “Arc” Doggs. Her twin sister is Daffy or Daffodil Poet. The girls live in Chillicothe, Ohio, a depressed industrial town filled with smoke from the local paper mill and grit and grime on the streets. As children, they have to quickly adapt to the fact that their parents are heroin addicts and use their vivid imagination to create their own world to survive. After their father dies of an overdose and their beloved grandmother dies, the girls have too much stacked against them. As they grow older, their troubles start to echo those of their misguided parents. The sisters come together with a group of equally lost and troubled young women. They name themselves the “Chillicothe Queens” and descend into a life of drugs and sex work to fund their habit. When these forgotten women start turning up dead in the local river, the tragedy goes beyond their murders but the lack of anyone in the community caring much about their loss. Arcade is determined to keep herself and Daffy safe.
After reading this incredible book, several words come to mind - haunting, dark, brutal, raw, heartbreaking. The same words can be used to describe author Tiffany McDaniel's last book Betty, which was a 2020 favorite of mine. On the Savage Side was a highly anticipated book and given the subject matter, I assumed that this was going to be a very tough read. It was. The book was inspired by the true, unsolved crime story of the Chillicothe Six, women who went missing or were found dead between May 2014 and May 2015. McDaniel has proven once again that she is an amazing, poetic writer. And while she chooses topics that are at times unbearable, the quality of the storytelling and the lyrical prose made this a book that was well worth reading. Just be ready for a gut-wrenching reading experience.
Content Warning: the book includes passages of drug addiction, sexual abuse, and violence that might be too disturbing for some readers.
Many thanks to Knopf Publishing Group for providing an advance copy.
Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars. Literary Fiction | Crime | Mystery.
Publication Date: February 14, 2023.
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