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Sadie Hartmann's Book Review: ON THE SAVAGE SIDE by Tiffany McDaniel


On the Savage Side by Tiffany McDaniel

Release Date: February 2023
Knopf Publishing Group-Thank you for the NetGalley review copy and to Tiffany McDaniel for reaching out
General genre: Literary, Domestic Drama, Crime
Subgenre/Themes: Small town, generational addiction, drugs (heroin), twins, sexual abuse, sex workers, rehab, missing women and girls, corruption, victims, trauma
Writing Style: Immersive, past & present POV, literary

What you need to know: Twin sisters are being raised by their mother and aunt in poverty and violence. A coming-of-age tale, the reader comes to intimately share in Arcade (Arc) and Daff's struggle to survive their circumstances, the nurturing people in their lives come and go in a constant ebb and flow of instability. In their teen years, they make friends they can relate to; one by one, something happens to these young women. This novel was inspired by the true crime story of six women who went missing or were found dead in Chillicothe, Ohio.

My reading experience: This book will haunt me for the rest of my life. I truly believe that Tiffany McDaniel set out to write the most beautiful, memorable characters so that they will live in our reader's hearts forever- memorializing the tragic, real-life women who were murdered; their cases never solved. I will always remember the way this book made me feel. The lyrical prose describes the magical, vibrant, nature of young girls and women with their whole lives ahead of them. The way they are full of life and memories, dreams and aspirations, imaginations and wonder set against the backdrop of harsh reality.

A nightmare.

Drugs, sex work, violence, poverty, literally the most vulnerable prey in a playground for predators. Even the authorities don't care where they are, who they are with, or what will happen to them.
I felt sick to my stomach knowing what was coming and Tiffany McDaniel does not hold back or spare your sensitivities. This book ran my emotions through a full spectrum, chief among those feelings was anger. The same anger when I listen to true crime podcasts where law enforcement treats missing sex workers as throwaway people or teen girls as runaways. They blame the parents, the neighborhood, the drugs...anyone but the people actually out there victimizing, abusing, and murdering.
A truly harrowing story. I've never read anything like it and I will never forget it.

My final recommendation: This is for fans of Tiffany McDaniel's prior release, Betty. Coming-of-age stories where children must overcome impossible odds due to their life circumstances. If you want to bear witness to women who are abandoned, go missing, are victims of abuse, and there's just no justice, nobody to care or lift a finger to advocate for them. A powerful, harrowing read that stirs up strong emotions in your core.

Comps: Bastard Out of Carolina, Betty

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