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Bettyville: A Memoir by George Hodgman

Bettyville: A Memoir

by George Hodgman

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3942445,060 (3.91)34
"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. "--… (more)



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» See also 34 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
I liked it. It made me think of my own mother in Gloriatown. I just hope I can cope with my personal Nancyburgh when the time comes. ( )
  nwieme | Mar 19, 2020 |
"Bettyville", a beautifully-written memoir from author George Hodgman, will gently break places in your heart, and then it will tenderly patch them back together with warmth and humor. George Hodgman becomes the care provider for his elderly mother, Betty, leaving his life in Manhattan behind and returning to his home town of Paris, Missouri. Having reached the age of ninety-something by living in her own indomitable manner, Betty will not go quietly into old-age oblivion. As issues such as dementia, cancer, and increasing physical frailty creep into the picture, Betty remains a force to be reckoned with. At the age of ninety-one, she chooses to fight her cancer, and begins radiation therapy. Throughout all of their rumblings and grumblings while reconnecting and acclimating to once again living in the same house, it becomes clear that there is a great love between mother and son. Seeing Betty struggle, yet refuse to surrender her spirit, leads George to discover his own personal strengths and gives him the courage to move forward with choices for his future. My own mother's name was Betty, and while our life situation was quite different from George and his mother, much of our circumstances were similar. While George left home and then came back, I stayed with my mother for almost fifty years. My Betty and I were separated only when she passed away. George and his Betty remain together. "Bettyville" is keenly-observed, poignant, and written with great heart. A recommended read for caregivers, but also for those who receive the care.

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  gincam | Sep 16, 2019 |
I came to love Betty. I don't often say that about a character - although in this case being that it's a memoir - much less about a person I've never met. But it's true. Despite George's struggles, his care and the love he has for his mother shines through with his brilliant writing. ( )
  DonnaEverhart | Mar 23, 2019 |
The author relates his experiences and musings about returning to his hometown in Missouri to care for his mother after having lived in New York. She has issues with her memory. He has struggles with his career, with relationships, and with her. I found parts of it interesting, especially since I'm familiar with the general location where he was in Missouri - so I found his reflections on how people live there interesting. His stories about coping with his mom's condition and the dog he adopts were endearing or at least interesting. But overall it just seemed an average read, not hugely memorable. For those with more of a similar way of thinking as the author it would probably be more enjoyable. ( )
  debs4jc | Jul 18, 2018 |
The title is Hodgman's term for Paris, Missouri, his small hometown and the place his mother has lived for most of her 90 years. In this memoir, Hodgman, a freelance editor, mid-fifties, gay and an only child, leaves New York City to return home and take care of his mother for what he hopes will be a brief bout of illness. It turns out that Betty has the beginnings of dementia. This is Hodgman's story of growing up with a loving, extroverted father and a distant, sharp-tongued mother in the 60's and 70's, when being gay made a person the subject of ridicule or pity. Hodgman was a young man in NYC right when the AIDS epidemic arrived, and he reached enormous success working at Vanity Fair. His past life and his current one, of caring for his difficult elderly mother, switch off, showing how much of his childhood created the man he now sees himself as, a man too damaged to be happy.

This is the author's personal history, and also his family's. At times very funny, much more of sadness, and very introspective. ( )
  mstrust | Mar 30, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
This superior memoir, written in a witty and episodic style, is at times heartbreaking. It's also, though just under 300 pages, an especially dense one, filled with a lifetime's worth of reflection and story after fascinating story. Starting out rather conventionally as the tale of a son's return home to rural Paris, MO, to take care of his ailing mother, Betty, the narrative slowly begins to delve into Hodgman's difficulties with self-acceptance, particularly as a gay man. While his relationship with his mother is a close one, it quickly becomes clear that his sexual orientation is chief among the many things that he and his family don't discuss. Hodgman beautifully details how much rural America has changed in the last 30 years, though not always for the better. VERDICT Readers from many backgrounds will identify with Hodgman, as he essentially presents a plea to accept everybody for who they are, no matter what their story may be, or what kinds of lives they may lead.
added by kthomp25 | editLibrary Journal Reviews
Be not afraid that "Bettyville" is a story about elder care, because Betty Baker Hodgman would never stand for it. Even with dementia and lymphoma, Betty is very much full of life and never tries to be anyone but herself. "'At least I'm out and out with my meanness,'" she tells her son. "'I'm not a sneak. I hate a sneak.'"
Betty isn't really mean, just direct and quick-witted — even if she struggles for words. A real tenderness runs through this poignant memoir, and its comedic qualities and sharp insights prevent it from becoming sappy...Hodgman renders Betty fully — and on this journey home, learns that he is strong enough to stay the course with her in Paris.
So many memoirs about caring for an ailing relative can slip into mawkish territory, but Hodgman steers clear of sentimentality. “Bettyville” is not just a memoir about a son caring for his mother; it is a book that explores the difficult terrain of long-held roles within a family, the changing landscape of a small Southern town with a long memory and the strain of growing up gay under the disapproving eye of otherwise loving parents.

Hodgman’s sharp wit carries the book ever forward; his self-deprecating humor (especially about his struggle to stay sober in the face of stress) and jokes about his expanding waistline are added with the comic timing of a seasoned satirist. But he is also honest about how he has used, and still uses, humor to stay afloat...It is this “watcher” trait that makes Hodgman such a successful memoirist: He watches Betty, not always with the eye of a son, but as an observer. And he does the same with himself.
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This book is dedicated, first and foremost, to my best friends, my parents: George A. and Betty Baker Hodgman. Every word about them is written with love.
It is also for my grandmothers, Margaret Callison Baker and Virginia Rachel Hodgman; my great-aunt Bess Baker; my aunt June Baker; and Alice Mayhew, always loyal, every generous. Finally, it is for Madison and Paris, where so many I care about have walked. I will always remember you, good people.
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Missouri is a state of golden names, bestowed to bring the world a little closer: Versailles, Rom, Cairo, New London, Athens, Carthage, Alexandria, Lebanon, Cuba, Japan, Santa Fe, Cleveland, Canton, California, Caledonia, New Caledonia, Mexico, Louisiana.
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