2 reviews

Bettyville: A Memoir
by George Hodgman

Published: 2015-03-10
Hardcover : 288 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 2 of 2 members

 “A beautifully crafted memoir, rich with humor and wisdom.” —Will Schwalbe, author of The End of Your Life Book Club

“The idea of a cultured gay man leaving New York City to care for his aging mother in Paris, Missouri, is already funny, and George ...
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 “A beautifully crafted memoir, rich with humor and wisdom.” —Will Schwalbe, author of The End of Your Life Book Club

“The idea of a cultured gay man leaving New York City to care for his aging mother in Paris, Missouri, is already funny, and George Hodgman reaps that humor with great charm. But then he plunges deep, examining the warm yet fraught relationship between mother and son with profound insight and understanding.” —Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home

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 New York Times bestselling debut is both an indelible portrait of a family and an exquisitely told tale of a prodigal son’s return.

Editorial Review

The Amazon Spotlight Pick for March 2015: When George Hodgman left Manhattan for Paris to visit his aging mother, he didn’t realize it would be the beginning of an unintended, and indeterminate tenure as a caregiver. Did I mention that it’s Paris, Missouri? They say you can’t go home again, and in Hodgman’s case, you can understand why he wouldn’t want to—Paris hadn’t proven to be the most hospitable place for someone coming to terms with their sexuality. This was compounded by the fact that Hodgman’s parents didn’t approve of who he “turned out to be,” which was as specific as they were willing to get on the matter. Any gaps in their understanding were filled with an insidious silence that kept this otherwise loving family at arm’s length. I haven’t forgotten what this book is called and, no doubt, you will fall in love with the impossible and endearing woman that is its namesake. But at its heart, Bettyville serves as a poignant cautionary tale about the dangers of leaving difficult things unsaid, and in these pages, Hodgman practices what he preaches. –Erin Kodicek


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Discussion Questions

Suggested by Members

Discuss what you feel about the roles we play in the care of aging parents.
Should one put your life on hold to provide day to day care or place them in care facilities against their will?
by GrandmaNaNa (see profile) 07/01/16

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

"Think nothing some stellar more depressing than memoirs about caregiving? Think again: both these funny, touching, quirky, heartbreaking, and –in Marshall's case–occasionally profane books about nursing elderly parents are destined to become modern classics. You'll root for both Hodgman, a book editor who jettisoned New York City life to care for his mother in small-town Missouri, and Marshall, who left LA and moved back in with his dad, who had ALS, and his mom, who was suffering from cancer."--Entertainment Weekly's Best Books of 2015 (#9, tied with Home is Burning)

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Libet T. (see profile) 11/11/20

by Laura K. (see profile) 07/12/17

  "Bettyville"by Lynda R. (see profile) 04/10/17

The book is as much about the son's life as it is about his mother's life and their relationship with each other. It was a nice surprise and insightful to learn about the challenges of a gay person.... (read more)

by Debbie R. (see profile) 04/07/17

by Teresa C. (see profile) 09/08/16

  "Touching Narrative on life with Aging Parent"by Linda E. (see profile) 07/01/16

Author explores life with his aging mother when he returns to small town America from NY city and reflects on his relationship with his father as well as a gay man. An emotionally moving story the chapter... (read more)

  "Bettyville"by Shannon V. (see profile) 04/21/16

I started to skim this book; then found that skimming still didn't elicit new information so I skipped to the end and still nothing really changed. I do not recommend this book.

by Tish G. (see profile) 04/22/15

  "Touching and Hilarious Memoir"by sara s. (see profile) 04/20/15

Hodgman's description of his life growing up in Paris, MO, as an only child who knows he is different and finally realizes he is homosexual is touching, hilarious and a new topic to me. His description... (read more)

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