Bettyville (Hodgman)

Bettyville:  A Memoir
George Hodgman, 2015
Penguin Books
288 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780525427209

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. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1959-60
Where—Paris, Missouri, USA
Education—B.A., Missouri School of Journalism; M.A., Boston College
Currently—lives in New York City and Paris, Missouri

George Hodgman is a veteran magazine and book editor who has worked at Simon & Schuster, Vanity Fair, and Talk magazine. His writing has appeared in Entertainment Weekly, Interview, W, and Harper’s Bazaar, among other publications. He lives in New York City and Paris, Missouri. (From .)

Book Reviews
A remarkable, laugh-out-loud book.... Rarely has the subject of elder care produced such droll human comedy, or a heroine quite on the mettlesome order of Betty Baker Hodgman. For as much as the book works on several levels (as a meditation on belonging, as a story of growing up gay and the psychic cost of silence, as metaphor for recovery), it is the strong-willed Betty who shines through.
New York Times

An intimate, heartfelt portrait of a mother and son, each at the crossroads of life.... Hodgman’s sharp wit carries the book ever forward.
Minneapolis Star-Tribune

A superb memoir.... Hodgman is by turns wry, laugh-out-loud funny, self-deprecating, insecure to the point of near suicide, and an attentive caregiver despite occasional, understandable resentments.... I have read several hundred American memoirs; I would place Bettyville in the top five.
Steve Weinberg - Kansas City Star

In his tender, sardonic, and fearless account of life with Betty—who has never acknowledged that her son is gay—Hodgman delivers an epic unfolding of his lifelong search for acceptance and love.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A humorous, bittersweet account of Hodgman’s caring for his aging, irascible mother.
Vanity Fair

The author's continuous low-key humor infuses the memoir with refreshing levity, without diminishing the emotional toll of being the sole health-care provider to an elderly parent. This is an emotionally honest portrayal of a son's secrets and his unending devotion to his mother.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review.) This is a superior memoir, written in a witty and episodic style, yet at times it’s heartbreaking...filled with a lifetime’s worth of reflection and story after fascinating story.
Library Journal

The book is instantly engaging, as Hodgman has a wry sense of humor, one he uses to keep others at a distance. Yet the book is also devastatingly touching. Betty is one tough cookie, and...[t]here’s a lot for Hodgman to handle.... A tender, resolute look at a place, literal and figurative, baby boomers might find themselves.

Hodgman writes with wit and empathy about all the loss he’s confronted with.... That doesn’t mean Bettyville is without humor—far from it.... This is a portrait of a woman in decline, but still very much alive and committed to getting the lion’s share of mini-Snickers at every op­portunity. When things are left un­said between parents and children, it leaves a hurt that can never be completely repaired, but love and dedication can make those scarred places into works of art. Bettyville is one such masterpiece.

A gay magazine editor and writer's account of how he returned home to the Midwest from New York to care for his aging mother.... But when he returned to Paris [Missouri], it was with a greater acceptance of who he was: not the son Betty might have wanted or expected, but the son who would see her through the "strange days" of her final years of life. Movingly honest, at times droll, and ultimately poignant.
Kirkus Reviews

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