Bettyville by George Hodgman

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Nearly a year ago, I began hearing about a book called Bettyville by George Hodgman. I read the glowing reviews, added it to my list, and even bought the book. Yet, like emails that drop below my screen view, I never got to it.

Although there are other books I should be reading, I picked Bettyville up a few days ago and then barely put it down until reaching the last page. Hodgman’s memoir of the time he spent caring for his elderly mother made me laugh out loud and feel overwhelmed by sadness in equal measure.

George Hodgman, a writer and editor living in New York City, returns to Paris, Missouri and witnesses the decline of a woman he loves and a town that has been changed by drugs and Walmart.  “This is not a locale whose residents are waiting desperately for the latest version of the iPhone,” Hodgman writes. “This is a place where the Second Coming would be much preferred to tomorrow’s sunrise, the world of the Store, the Big Cup, the carbohydrate, and the cinnamon roll – a region of old families, now faded, living in trailer homes, divorcing and having illegitimate children. But there is also kindness, such kindness…”

Hodgman writes honestly about the frustration of caring for an aging parent – and the complicated relationship between mother and son – but most of all he is a good man devoted to caring for his mother with love and respect.  There are some very funny stories (including one about mini Snicker bars) and poignant memories of the loneliness Hodgman felt as a young gay man growing up in a small town.

On a completely different note, we were in Amherst, Massachusetts over the weekend. Because of the subzero temperatures, we were looking for things to do that did not involve being outdoors and decided to visit the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College which is a gem – a perfect small museum that we will definitely visit again.

One of my favorites was this painting of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the author of Gift From the Sea and the wife of Charles Lindbergh. The artist, Robert Brackman, painted this in 1938 – only six years after the Lindbergh’s baby was kidnapped….

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We also noticed that a Good Samaritan thoughtfully put a scarf around Robert Frost’s neck. It was a cold day, even for someone who appreciated “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

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