Bettyville

Bettyville

A Memoir

Book - 2015
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"A witty, tender memoir of a son's journey home to care for his irascible mother -- a tale of secrets, silences, and enduring love. When George Hodgman leaves Manhattan for his hometown of Paris, Missouri, he finds himself -- an unlikely caretaker and near-lethal cook -- in a head-on collision with his aging mother, Betty, a woman of wit and will. Will George lure her into assisted living? When hell freezes over. He can't bring himself to force her from the home both treasure -- the place where his father's voice lingers, the scene of shared jokes, skirmishes, and, behind the dusty antiques, a rarely acknowledged conflict: Betty, who speaks her mind but cannot quite reveal her heart, has never really accepted the fact that her son is gay. As these two unforgettable characters try to bring their different worlds together, Hodgman reveals the challenges of Betty's life and his own struggle for self-respect, moving readers from their small town-crumbling but still colorful-to the star-studded corridors of Vanity Fair. Evocative of The End of Your Life Book Club and The Tender Bar, Hodgman's debut is both an indelible portrait of a family and an exquisitely told tale of a prodigal son's return"--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York :, Viking,, 2015
ISBN: 9780525427209
Branch Call Number: ANF 306.874092 HOD
Characteristics: 278 pages ; 22 cm

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t
TheresaAJ
Feb 07, 2017

When George Hodgman returns home for his mother's 91st birthday, he realizes that she can no longer manage life on her own. As George descends into what he calls "Bettyville", he struggles to care for her while trying to lure her into assisted living at Tiger Place. As the parenting role slowly reverses between mother and son, the reader is drawn into several journeys -- Betty's life as it parallels the decline of small town America, George's life who couldn't wait to escape a small Missouri town because he was always different, and the lives of ancestors who built an America that is rapidly fading away. Any reader who helps take care of an aging relative will recognize the tears and humor involved in George's situations and predicaments with his mother.

DBRL_KrisA Nov 27, 2016

On the surface, Bettyville is the story of how the author returned to his small Missouri hometown to take care of his elderly mother. And if the book had been just about that, it would have been beautiful. But this book is about so many other things, as well: growing up gay in a small town; the author's struggle with addiction and recovery; the disappearance of the small town due to big-box stores and industrial agriculture.
Hodgman's mother (the Betty in Bettyville) and father are not touchy-feely people; Betty goes rigid if George tries to hug her, and she hates receiving help from anyone, so having her grown son take over is uncomfortable for both of them. It also makes it near impossible to discuss anything of importance - Betty's health, George's sexuality.
Ultimately, this is a beautiful homage to Betty and a fond remembrance of Hodgman's childhood.

bibliotechnocrat Oct 05, 2016

Coming from a family of silence myself, I found this memoir all too real. Ostensibly Hodgman's account of moving from Manhattan to Missouri to care for his ailing mother, the book is really about Hodgman himself overcoming shame, working through survivor's guilt related to the AIDS crisis, and finding the strength in himself to carry on, to be the man he needs to be for his mother's sake. At times, reading this is like watching a car wreck - helpless to reach out and tell the young Hodgman that it will be okay. In the end, it is a hopeful narrative about the human capacity for growth. A good read.

My favourite quote is from a sequence in rehab. A counsellor asks "who said you were bad [for being gay]? Hodgman responds: "Are you, like, new to this culture?"

l
lisa1947
Sep 05, 2016

This book is generous in describing the authors interior life while taking care of his elderly mother. His frustrations at his own limitations was familiar but the scenes with his mother was all too true. Invokes empathy galore with a dish of ethical issues

r
Rainman
Jun 14, 2016

I feel like I may have rated this a bit too high, as the structure is simple and the editing choppy at times, but any book that can make me literally laugh out loud is going to be a winner with me. Bettyville follows the mostly tragic life of the author, but ultimately reveals the wonderful success of just deciding to keep living. In that accomplishment, he finally finds something meaningful in common with his mother. A moving story.

b
brangwinn
Mar 13, 2016

When gay George leaves NYC and returns to Paris, Missouri to care for his aging mother, his life changes. His mother is failing and he’s her sole support. He examines his life and his mother’s they navigate the unknown. George’s insights about the dwindling small town he grew up in, his friends and his drug addiction provides both sadness and laughter. He’s able to make a connection with the reader, particularly if the reader is going through the same problem of aging parents as George is.

v
vicki_1970
Feb 16, 2016

Didn't really like it.

g
gusmcrae
Jan 26, 2016

I was excited to read "Bettyville" given its local connections (Mid-Mo setting!) and the many rave reviews I read and heard. And on many levels it does not disappoint. Hodgman's memoir is an examination of his life, which he reflects back on as he takes care of his aging mother. There are laugh-out-loud funny moments and moments so gut-wrenching that I found them hard to get through without shedding a tear.

With that said, the book was uneven for me. A mark of a good book is one that I can't wait to get back to when I've had to set it down. And I don't think I ever felt this way with this one. It felt a bit disjointed at times--jumping through time and then back again without clear transitions. With that said, I read mostly fiction. And this was non-fiction, so it wasn't going to have that same narrative arc that a fictional novel would have. So maybe that's what was missing for me?

c
ctkvlk
Nov 18, 2015

A somewhat self-indulgent memoir about a guy helping his mom out. Touching at times but he should read Unforgettable by Scott Simon.

multcolib_susannel Jun 14, 2015

George Hodgman leaves New York City for what he thinks will be a temporary visit with his aging mother in Paris, Missouri. Instead he finds himself in the middle of his own life story, as well as that of his family.

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JCLHelenH May 25, 2016

"I think people who feel OK in the world will never understand those of us who haven't."

JCLHelenH May 25, 2016

"Recovery hurts. Every feeling you escaped comes to slap you in the face."

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