Perhaps for the first time in my life, I fully comprehended what I was and how people saw me. My mother was a drain on her family and society in general, a woman who lived on welfare and on crime. I was nothing but a burden - a child most people assumed would mature into a man who would travel the path blazed by those who raised him.
They were wrong. I had no more room for pain. I wasn't going to beg, or need. And even though I wasn't quite sure where I was going or how I was going to learn to stand on my own, I knew I wouldn't going to follow after Betty. I'd rather die, I vowed. People could think what they wanted of me, but I decided right then and there I didn't care one whit what they believed. I didn't need anyone. I wasn't going to need anyone, ever.
One of the things I like about being a book blogger is that if often leads me to books that I might not have ordinarily picked up off the shelf. Betty's Child is one of those books, although it's being compared to Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt) which I did read a while back.
In the tradition of Frank McCourt and Angela's Ashes, Don Dempsey uses Betty's Child to tell the story of life with his cruel and neglectful mother, his mother's abusive boyfriends, and hypocritical church leaders who want to save twelve-year-old Donny's soul but ignore threats to his physical well-being. Meanwhile, Donny's best friend is trying to recruit Donny to do petty theft and deal drugs for a dangerous local thug.
Young Donny is a real-life cross between Huckleberry Finn and Holden Caulfield as he tells his story, with only his street smarts and sense of humor to guide him. Donny does everything he can to take care of himself and his younger brothers, but with each new development, the present becomes more fraught with peril--and the future more uncertain.
Donny (the author, Don Dempsey) was a great narrator. Funny and sarcastic, he guides the reader throughout his train wreck of a childhood, telling in great detail how he helped raise his brothers, who were 3 (Chip) and 6 (Terry) when he was 12. His mother, Betty, was always running check scams and never kept them in any one place for long, though he did manage to make friends when they lived in Ohio for a bit.
This novel tended to jump around a bit; Kindle never tells you how long a book is, but Amazon says it's around 400-450 pages, and I will say that it took me a while to get through it. However, even though the novel content and situations are often sad, I was always laughing at the way Donny described things. One example:
As a health teacher, it was Mrs. Perkins's job to teach us how to take care of ourselves, and I supposed she should probably get some credit for still trying while so many others didn't care to. But I needed more aggravation in my life like Betty needed unemployed boyfriends.At one point, Donny sort of wrapped up his Ohio life - he tells us the future of the lives of the kids he was friends with there - and it felt like the novel was ending, but in fact his family was just moving again, which is why I suppose he decided to let us in on what happens to them.
Overall this was an interesting read. I do wish that Don told us what happened to Betty or his middle brother, Terry, in the end, though; in the "after section," he tells us about a conversation with Chip, his youngest brother, but never mentions Terry, though we can surmise that Betty was either still in jail or on her way back to jail, I would imagine.
4 stars out of 5.
*Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of this novel for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.
GIVEAWAY:I have one copy of Betty's Child to give to a lucky reader.
Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. The contest will end next Tuesday, July 16th, at 11:59pm EST, and the winner will be emailed on July 17 and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen. U.S./Canada only, please.
a Rafflecopter giveaway