A novel of unforgettable women by Tiffany McDaniel
5/5 Star Review
After Betty, Tiffany McDaniel cemented herself as an absolute must-read author for me and On the Savage Side did not disappoint.
First and foremost, this novel is dedicated to, and inspired by, six real-life women who have come to be known as the Chillicothe Six: Charlotte Trego, Tameka Lynch, Wanda Lemons, Shasta Himelrick, Timberly Claytor, and Tiffany Sayre. They went missing over the course of 2014-2015 and their murders remain unsolved. These women were mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends – they were people who mattered to someone and it’s important that they be remembered as such and not just another statistic.
“The first sin was believing we would never die. The second sin was believing we were alive in the first place.”
On the Savage Side is a novel about twin sisters, Arcade and Daffodil, who are born to addicts. During their childhood, they are often pulled away from that environment by their loving grandmother – a woman full of love and stories. After a tragic accident that leaves their grandmother dead, the girls are forced back into their home with their parents and aunt and enter the cycle of generational poverty and addiction. Arc and Daffy are working the streets of Chillicothe when the first woman is found dead in the river. One by one, their friends start to disappear and Arc becomes increasingly desperate to save her sister and herself.
This novel left me utterly gutted. It is tragic and bleak and heart-wrenching. McDaniel’s lyrical prose paints a landscape that is beautiful in its brutality and characters who are unforgettable. On the Savage Side pulls no punches and details what life is like for the women who we like to forget exist in our society. The women who we look down upon because of poverty and addiction. The women who are someone to somebody, but whose disappearances and assaults go unsolved because of their station in life.
It’s taken me some time to write this review. It’s not often that a book hits me so hard that I have to sit it down and walk away, but this one did. Several times. I felt so many emotions reading this novel – anger, disgust, sadness, depression – that when I finally finished it, I had to spend some time digesting it.
Horror fans might wonder why this would appeal to them and they shouldn’t be deceived by the novel being touted as literary fiction. This novel contains many horrific elements, the most prominent eliciting a strong feeling of dread throughout the entirety of the book.
While this is the most devastating coming-of-age tale that I have ever read, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a difficult read, but well worth the investment of your time.
If there is one takeaway from On the Savage Side, it’s this – Do not forget. Never forget.