“I realized then that not only did Dad need us to believe his stories, we needed to believe them as well. To believe in unripe stars and eagles able to do extraordinary things. What it boiled down to was a frenzied hope that there was more to life than the reality around us. Only then could we claim a destiny we did not feel cursed to.”Betty – Tiffany McDaniel
In Summary of Betty
This coming-of-age novel follows the life of Betty – the daughter of a Cherokee man and her troubled, white mother – born in a bathtub in 1954. Throughout her traumatic, impoverished childhood in the Appalachian Mountains, she learns about family, racism, hate, and love. Her resiliency connects her to her father and seven siblings, and she copes with her family’s reality using Cherokee storytelling and practices that she has learned from her father. Betty, inspired by the childhood of Tiffany McDaniel’s mother, is raw, reflective, and painfully honest.
Warning: incest, sexual abuse, rape, animal abuse, PTSD, racism, neglectful childhood, suicide/suicide attempts, addiction, death (including of children)
|Character development is strong||Very heavy on metaphors|
|Builds to surprising twists that occur for the family||Animal abuse scene (there is a particular one that stands out) is disturbing and seems unnecessary|
|Connection to Native American culture of Betty’s paternal side (her dad is THE sweetest!)||Very long (some parts are dragged out and seem slow)|
“Don’t let it happen to you, Betty. Don’t ever be afraid to be yourself. You don’t wanna live so long only to realize, you ain’t lived at all.”
Well. Betty is quite the doozy.
And this is not just because the book is long (and I mean LONG).
Betty will tear your heart out and make you see the world differently. It will make you think about the perspectives of others, serving as a walk in another’s shoes. The writing – although dense – is masterfully crafted. This novel has practically every trigger warning that you can imagine (see list above – very important that you view this), and the fact that it’s based on true events makes it even more heartbreaking.
This book is brutal, but don’t let that keep you from diving in. Betty is an inspirational character, and her connections to her father and several siblings are absolutely beautiful. There is hope shown in the loving relationships she does have with certain family members. There are many flawed characters in Betty’s life, but isn’t that so like the reality of our world?
Additionally, I appreciate Betty’s desire to write and engage with her Cherokee roots as a way to cope with her world. If this isn’t the definition of why literature and storytelling is meaningful, then I don’t know what is.
Remember that reality is raw and that certain outcomes may not always be desired; not every story you read will be happy. Betty is one of those. However, if you choose to read this book, I do not believe that you will regret your choice and that your heart will come out changed because of it.
Betty Book Information
- Published: 2020
- Publisher: Knopf
- ISBN: 9780525657071
- Format: Hardback (purchased through Book of the Month)
- Length: 480 pages