NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD
“A beautifully crafted memoir, rich with humor and wisdom.” —Will Schwalbe, author of The End of Your Life Book Club
“The idea of a cultured gay man leaving New York City to care for his aging mother in Paris, Missouri, is already funny, and George Hodgman reaps that humor with great charm. But then he plunges deep, examining the warm yet fraught relationship between mother and son with profound insight and understanding.” —Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home
When George Hodgman leaves Manhattan for his hometown of Paris, Missouri, he finds himself—an unlikely caretaker and near-lethal cook—in a head-on collision with his aging mother, Betty, a woman of wit and will. Will George lure her into assisted living? When hell freezes over. He can’t bring himself to force her from the home both treasure—the place where his father’s voice lingers, the scene of shared jokes, skirmishes, and, behind the dusty antiques, a rarely acknowledged conflict: Betty, who speaks her mind but cannot quite reveal her heart, has never really accepted the fact that her son is gay.
As these two unforgettable characters try to bring their different worlds together, Hodgman reveals the challenges of Betty’s life and his own struggle for self-respect, moving readers from their small town—crumbling but still colorful—to the star-studded corridors of Vanity Fair. Evocative of The End of Your Life Book Club and The Tender Bar, Hodgman’s New York Times bestselling debut is both an indelible portrait of a family and an exquisitely told tale of a prodigal son’s return.
Hodgman's memoir chronicles his return home to care for his mother in the small Missouri town where he grew up. His relocation provides the veteran book editor and writer an opportunity for re-evaluating his life while assuming care of Betty, his ailing, widowed, and willful 90-year-old mother. Hodgman's narrative alternates between describing the joys and stresses of his daily caretaking tasks, giving close analysis of his life growing up gay in a smalltown. Hodgman also chronicles his long struggle to understand and become comfortable in his own skin, ruminating over the decades his family muffled discussion of his sexuality. Hodgman attended college, then moved to New York at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, which greatly affected his view of the world. As Betty's health declines, Hodgman is buoyed by the friendships and familiarities provided by smalltown life. Hodgman includes a cast of characters from his hometown, as well as people he encountered professionally and romantically in New York. The author's continuous low-key humor infuses the memoir with refreshing levity, without diminishing the emotional toll of being the sole health-care provider to an elderly parent. This is an emotionally honest portrayal of a son's secrets and his unending devotion to his mother.