*** Bettyville by George Hodgman


Bettyville starts like many other memoirs of caretakers of aging parents. The dutiful son leaves his beloved New York for a small town in Missouri (grandly called Paris!) because his mother is losing her memory and her health, refuses any nursing home, but cannot safely remain in the house where he grew up.

Soon, it appears that while he loves and cares meticulously for his mother, she is not just prickly and demanding: she also has failed to acknowledge, and her husband as well while he was alive, that her son is gay. So while he tells us (hilariously!) of taking her to her doctor’s appointments or to church, he remembers his difficult childhood in a bigoted town where he was ridiculed, abused, and encouraged by his parents to “man up”, followed by the freedom of the big city and its excesses. It makes for a satisfying mix of sadness and hilarious observations of the absurd moments of life. Don’t think you have read too many caretaker memoirs. This one is different.

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