Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Bettyville: A Memoir 
By George Hodgeman
read and reviewed at request
of publisher 

Amazon Blurb -

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.

George Hodgman is a single man living in Manhattan, a writer and editor he worked for Vanity Fair frequented many of the "hot-spots" is an addict in remission. That he's gay seems to be more of a fixation and issue to him than to the story itself.

He travels home to Paris Missouri to care for his mother Betty who is suffering from the beginnings of dementia is in her 90's and sadly in the end stage of life. Not an easy task for this only child to tackle. Betty doesn't want to go to a home, she also doesn't want help. She is fiercely independent unwilling to lean on her son.  George tries in vain to just get her to accept his help but it's a brick wall. This story unfolds before your eyes, seeing Betty ask over and over, "What's that drink we have at Christmas? What's the capital of Portugal?" and her writing the answers down on her notepad of things to remember. Her repeated mantra of don't fall, don't fall as she walks. You ache for her as she fights to not slip away, and you feel for George struggling to do what's right by his mother. This is no easy task, one every child truly dreads having to face let alone when you have no siblings to share the burden. 

A sad story when you get to the crux of it, I have but one complaint, this book should have been called Georgetown not Bettyville. This story was more about him and his bitterness at never fitting in, being accepted for who he is. He zings back and forth from present to past. That he's from a hokey little town filled with traditional down home folksy people should be no shock to anyone that he's viewed as the odd one. I kept waiting for this spitfire to show her face and it never came but for a couple of little quips from Betty such as "they still make that?" when George cooked tuna casserole for her. 

It was an ok book, not great, not terrible, just ok. If you can handle what is in my opinion a sad tale, do read.

*Book received by the publisher in return of fair unbiased review.

2 1/2 cannolis

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Blackberry Winter

Blackberry Winter
By Sarah Jio
February Book Club Choice

Amazon Blurb -
Seattle, 1933. Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, goodnight and reluctantly leaves for work. She hates the nightshift, but it’s the only way she can earn enough to keep destitution at bay. In the morning—even though it’s the second of May—a heavy snow is falling. Vera rushes to wake Daniel, but his bed is empty. His teddy bear lies outside in the snow. 

Seattle, present day. On the second of May, Seattle Times reporter, Claire Aldridge, awakens to another late-season snowstorm. Assigned to cover this “blackberry winter” and its predecessor decades earlier, Claire learns of Daniel’s unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth—only to discover that she and Vera are linked in unexpected ways.

Vera Ray is a devoted single mom trying so hard to eek out a living in the harsh early 30's. Her sweet three year old boy Daniel has to stay home alone while she goes to work at the night-shift. A crazy late snowstorm has hit Seattle and Vera leaves for work in the middle of it. When she returns home her baby boy is gone. And so starts a tragic nightmare for this woman.

Claire Aldridge is drowning in sorrow. Each day is a chore. She and her husband are drifting apart and she can't seem to stop it. When she wakes to a crazy May snowstorm, her job as a reporter for the Seattle Times calls her to duty. Report about this and the previous crazy Blackberry Winter as it's been dubbed. The story takes her on a journey to the past and the mystery of Daniel's disappearance and the tragic story of Vera. The connections to her own life open her eyes and ultimately her heart that she has closed off.

Will Claire be able to put the pieces of her life and marriage back together?

I loved this book, Sarah is truly a master of blending the past and present seamlessly. I so enjoy turning each page wondering as any fan of Jio will, "Ok, where's the connection? Who's it gonna be?" Your heartstrings are tug, sometimes you want to shake the protagonist, but you're never disappointed. Another wonderful story that a highly recommend! 

4 cannolis

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