On the Savage Side: A novel (Hardcover)
On Our Shelves Now
Six women—mothers, daughters, sisters—gone missing. Inspired by the unsolved murders of the Chillicothe Six, this harrowing novel tells the story of two sisters, both of whom could be the next victims, from the internationally best-selling author of Betty.
"Capture[s] what goes horribly wrong when women don’t fit a customary victim profile...McDaniel artfully evokes each facet of their common humanity, the sinuous landscape, and defiant community in the face of evil." —Oprah Daily
Arcade and Daffodil are twins born one minute apart. With their fiery red hair and thirst for escape, they form an unbreakable bond nurtured by their grandmother’s stories. Together, they disappear into their imaginations and forge a world all their own.
But what the two sisters can’t escape are the generational ghosts that haunt their family. Growing up in the shadow of their rural Ohio town, the sisters cling tightly to one another. Years later, Arcade wrestles with the memories of her early life, just as a local woman is discovered drowned in the river. Soon, more bodies are found. As her friends disappear around her, Arcade is forced to reckon with the past while the killer circles closer. Arcade’s promise to keep herself and her sister safe becomes increasingly desperate and the powerful riptide of the savage side becomes more difficult to survive.
Drawing from the true story of women killed in Chillicothe, Ohio, acclaimed novelist and poet Tiffany McDaniel has written a moving literary testament and fearless elegy for missing women everywhere.
About the Author
TIFFANY McDANIEL is an Ohio native whose writing is inspired by the rolling hills and woods of the land she knows. Drawing from her Cherokee heritage, she is a poet, a novelist, and a visual artist. Her debut novel, The Summer That Melted Everything, won the Guardian's Not the Booker award and the Ohioana Reader’s Choice Award. She is the author of Betty, an international best seller and a Friends of American Writers Chicago, the Society of Midland Authors, Nautilus Book Award, and Ohioana Library Readers’ Choice Award winner.
"The women of this book are clever and witchy, speaking in a poetic cadence they have created together... McDaniel is exceptionally inventive... McDaniel’s sentences are often striking, ethereal and transcendent... After 454 pages of searing pain, inflicted on our characters by their families and strangers and themselves, I felt distinctly depleted — but alongside that exhaustion came an undeniable sense of wonder. McDaniel pulls off an impressive twist at the finale, with a plot shift that might inspire you to start the book again if your nervous system can handle it. And of course, the killer is not the point. We read for the women, the dismal yet beatific textures of their lives. Stories about murdered women always fall on the savage side, but beneath that, too, is the pulse of something beautiful."
—Danya Kukafka, The New York Times Book Review
"Devastating…McDaniel treats the women who ‘walk the streets of Chillicothe with holes in their arms’ with great tenderness, far more tenderness than they receive in life… The young women, and the world in which they live, won't easily be forgotten.”
—Margaret Quamme, The Columbus Dispatch
"On the Savage Side is gorgeously written. If you are looking for humor or hope then this is not the book for you. It’s gritty and dark and we feel for these lost souls. This must have been a difficult book to write. But it really had to be written.”
—Vick Mickunas, Dayton Daily News
"In this atmospheric Appalachian Gothic, a poet and novelist draws on a string of actual unsolved murders in her native Ohio to capture what goes horribly wrong when women don’t fit a customary victim profile... McDaniel artfully evokes each facet of their common humanity, the sinuous landscape, and defiant community in the face of evil."
"McDaniel’s novel is by turns stark and poetic, a bleak and solemn elegy to lives that in another place and time might have been lived on the beautiful side. It’s also a tale of a nation unraveling, drowning in rivers of hopelessness and drug addiction."
—Library Journal, starred
"Stunning... McDaniel portrays the twins and the others in their group as almost preternaturally bright, full of knowledge and wonder, making for an aching contrast to their traumas of addiction, abuse, violence, and loss. It’s a striking portrayal of women fighting for their lives, and one readers won’t soon forget."
—Publishers Weekly, starred
"An exploration of addiction and grief and an indictment of how we decide who deserves saving. As she did in Betty, McDaniel gives every character the voice of a poet."
"Tiffany McDaniel’s gorgeously written On the Savage Side, loosely inspired by the Chillicothe murders in Ohio, tells the story of two twin sisters, their friends who go missing, and all the ways women suffer in the world. Reading this book is like looking through a haunted kaleidoscope."
“A brilliant and beautifully written book about a stark and terrible world, On the Savage Side brings a sense of humanity to the ravages of addiction. This book is as important as it is timely.”
—Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain
“Inspired by a true crime story, Tiffany McDaniel has written a novel of the highest literary merits, a book about the bonds of family, community, and the consequences of those bonds failing us. It is a story that speaks to America’s current moral disorientation, and then transcends it.”
—Elliot Ackerman, author of 2034: A Novel of the Next World War
"Eye-opening, chilling and yet compassionate, On the Savage Side is a disturbing and insightful re-imagining of a true-life crime story."
—Dan Chaon, author of Ill Will
“Tiffany McDaniel’s characters will break a reader’s heart with their longing and vulnerable loves. 'A trio of women who could have been queens in a different parade,' they tell stories of an America that deserves a closer look, from a writer who delineates their lives with tenderness."
—Susan Straight, author of Mecca
"In On the Savage Side, Tiffany McDaniel paints a portrait of addiction that is honest and unapologetically brutal, yet her twin protagonists are never defined solely by their struggles. Instead they are artists and swimmers, archaeologists and poets, searching for the smallest glints of hope in a world where their love for each other is the only constant. Dedicated to the memory of six women who disappeared or were killed in Chillicothe, Ohio, the novel asks pressing questions about why society deems some injustices tragic and others merely inconvenient. If only all women whose suffering has been ignored could have an artist as gifted as McDaniel to give their eulogy. "
—Anjali Sachdeva, author of All the Names They Used For God
"Tiffany McDaniel spins an elaborate, glittering web of brutality and childlike innocence. On the Savage Side lays bare the cruel devolution of addiction, and the way it clings to a family, dragging them into poverty and desperate acts. This book will leave you breathless, heartbroken, and agape at how beauty persists in the midst of tragedy."
—Bryn Greenwood, author of The Reckless Oath We Made and All the Ugly and Wonderful Things