Sunday, 19 August 2018
Bettyville - George Hodgman
The author is a magazine and book editor. So having spent a lot of time putting an article or a book in order, he has acquired a lovely style all of his own, and it was a pleasure to read this.
It is the story of two things. His mother's descent, at around 90, into dementia and his care for her; and his offloading to you, the reader, of a life kept secret from his parents. Like a lot of gay men he knew he was different, and so he escaped from a small town environment to the big city. He seemed to have a crazy, fun but empty time because he could not let himself get close to people. You will see, as you read, how similar in character he was to both parents, but we don't want to admit that, do we, when we are young - it took George Hodgman until he was in his fifties.
Drugs played a large part in his life in the city, and a part too in grieving the loss of friends (the early 1980s AIDS epidemic was hugely felt in and outside gay communities around the world). Eventually he kicked the drugs; but from time to time still craves the lift they gave him.
When George goes home to visit his elderly mother, he finds that he needs to stay. I loved Betty, and the fight she put up not to "loose it" entirely. I loved George, a man with a bigger heart than he thinks he has. I don't have parents now. I am not gay. I don't live in small town America. But I do recommend this book as an eye opener, a source of joy; a book to tell you much about the care and respect of the elderly; and also as a short history of the death of small town America, and a book I think a lot of people would pass over as "not interested" but shouldn't!