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Betty by Tiffany McDaniel
Literary fiction

Betty

by Tiffany McDaniel

Quick take

This devastating account of a Cherokee woman's life is an ode to the beauty and power of storytelling.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Emotional

    Emotional

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SocialIssues

    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Sad

    Sad

Illustrated icon, Icon_Challenging_Indicator

FYI

This is a slow-build story with themes of violence, assault, and hardship.

Why I love it

Brianna Goodman
BOTM Editorial Team

What kind of quarantine reader are you? Throughout this pandemic, I’ve been vacillating between extreme reading moods. Some days I reach for something light and happy to give me hope. Others I reach for an otherworldly story to escape into something new. And some days I want something dark, probing, and real—something that articulates all that is beautiful and tragic about being a human, at a time when we mostly experience one another’s humanity through screens.

It was during one of those latter moods that I read Betty, a lyrical and—in full disclosure—heartbreaking novel inspired by the life of the author’s mother. Betty is the daughter of a Cherokee father and a white mother. Born into a family burdened by poverty and by a dark past, Betty finds solace in writing. Through her stories, we learn about her love for the Appalachian landscape, her loyalty to her sisters, and the cruel realities of life in her community and her home.

This is not an easy read. Betty’s life is marked by violence and hardship as much as it is by love. If you’re looking for a fun escape, you won’t find that here; but what you will find is a moving, detailed portrait of a woman, rendered in sentences so lovely you might find yourself underlining every other phrase. Betty is a tribute to the author’s mother, but it’s also a tribute to the power of story. And at a time when books are keeping us company where our fellow humans cannot, what message could be more resonant?

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Synopsis

Born in a bathtub in 1954 to a Cherokee father and white mother, Betty Carpenter is the sixth of eight siblings. The world they inhabit is one of poverty and violence—both from outside the family, and also, 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 in her rural town of Breathed, Ohio.

But despite the hardship 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 she bears witness to, 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 has stung her so deeply, she could not tell them, until now.

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Preview

Get an early look from the first pages of Betty.

Member thoughts

All (1791)
All (1791)
Love (1300)
Like (394)
Dislike (97)
1833 ratings
  • 71% Love
  • 21% Like
  • 5% Dislike
  • New Britain, CT

    This book blew me away. The description and Betty’s story is one that will stick with me for a while. Cried at several parts just because the writing was so strong. One of my favorite reads. Betty ❤️

  • Knoxville , TN

    This book was heartbreaking, but also one of the best books I’ve read! I loved Betty and her father’s relationship. There were some parts that were hard to read, but would recommend this one overall!

  • Springfield, MO

    This might be my favorite book. It’s rare that you get a coming of age story with a female lead that feels as amazing as this one. The writing is beautiful and I’m so happy to have found this book.

  • Chicago, IL

    Betty is a sweeping family saga that chronicles the titular character’s coming-of-age in Ohio. There’s plenty of cruelty and pain, but there’s also strength and hope to be found in the foothills.

  • Salem, OR

    I seriously could not put this book down. It’s probably one of the best books I have read. The story telling is exceptional. I loved Betty from the moment she arrived in the story. ❤️❤️❤️

  • Apex, NC

    A beautiful and well-written novel. This realistic coming-of-age story is about Betty, the next to youngest of 6 children, and her parents. They live with poverty and prejudice, but have a loving Dad.

  • Whittier , CA

    Unforgettable family saga, and a beautiful homage to a magical Cherokee life. That said, every chapter got more and more raw to the touch. I wouldn’t recommend if you are in a fragile state of mind.

  • Brookhaven, PA

    Just...ALL the emotions ! ALL the Rage! At times I forgot it was the 1950s-70s, and not 2021! And myself and the author share the name "Tiffany" so we already empowered to greatness!#Talk2Ancestors

  • Troy, IL

    The story of a young girl growing up in poverty, with so much violence & prejudice. It is painful. Her salvation comes in the form of her father & his stories, insulating her from some of the horrors.

  • Greenwich, CT

    Riddled with violence and stil a truly searing and tender saga. It is rare that i adore such unequivocally likable characters as Betty and her father. Their relationship will be imprinted on my heart.

  • Flint, MI

    I cannot adequately describe the depth of raw emotion and beauty this book was able to detail amidst such heartbreak and tragedy. As difficult as parts were to read, I could not recommend a book more!

  • Santa Fe, NM

    Top two of 2020! Brutal, honest, amazingly well-developed characters. The fact that it's a true story made it even more impactful. Trigger warning for awful abuse animal/s. Amazing writing, v powerful

  • Norman, OK

    I don’t think anyone will ever read this, but holy shit, what a book. If anyone ever tells you they hated this book, cut them out of your life and block them on facebook. They’re charmless idiots.

  • Shelby Twp, MI

    My BOTY for 2020. I am convinced it wont get better than Betty! The characters, the writing, the imagery and metaphors...everything was fantastic. This book really makes you feel. I absolutely loved!

  • Maryland Heights, MO

    This was a beautifully written book! I found it to be a profound and often heartbreaking story that will stay with me for a very long time. I love that it is based on the life of the author's mother.

  • Woodland , WA

    WOW! This book! This is such a powerful read and isn't one I will soon forget. It deals with some heavy subjects and I had to take a couple breaks while reading but I HIGHLY recommend ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

  • Aurora, CO

    A gorgeous book- the intermingling descriptions of natural and human life were incredible. I admired the main character's increasing strength despite the intense pain and loss as her life progressed.

  • Ellensburg, WA

    I am in awe of this book. It is devastating and soul-crushing (I cried more than a couple times) but one of the best books I’ve ever read. I feel so connected to these characters. I devoured this.

  • Louisville, KY

    My favorite BOTM book for 2020. It's a tragic, gritty novel, but beautiful and uplifting. The writing is poetic and the characters wonderfully eccentric. Strong female protagonist - LOVED this book.

  • Hudson , FL

    I just love Tiffany McDaniel's writing. I could stay in her stories forever. This is an intense book and there's some hard stuff to read, but yeah, let's be honest, that stuff does actually happen.

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