Review: On the Savage Side by Tiffany McDaniel


Release date: February 23, 2023

Publisher: Knopf

Genre: Mystery/Thriller


Six womenmothers, daughters, sisters–gone missing. When the first is found floating dead in the river, it reveals the disturbing truth of a small Ohio town. Inspired by the unsolved murders of the Chillicothe Six, this harrowing and haunting novel tells the story of two sisters, both of whom could be the next victims, from the internationally-bestselling author of Betty.

Arcade and Daffodil are twin sisters born one minute apart. With their fiery red hair and thirst for an escape, they forge an unbreakable bond nurtured by both their grandmother’s stories and their imaginations. Together, they create a world where a patch of grass reveals an archaeologist’s dig, the smoke emerging from the local paper mill becomes the dust rising from wild horses galloping on the ground, and an abandoned 1950s convertible transforms into a time machine that can take them anywhere.

But the two sisters can’t escape the generational chaos that grips their family. Growing up in the shadow of the town, the sisters cling tight to one another. As an adult, Arcade wrestles with these memories of her life, just as a local woman is discovered drowned in the river. Soon, more bodies are found. While her friends disappear around her, Arcade is forced to reckon with the past while the killer circles ever closer. Arcade’s promise to keep herself and her sister safe becomes increasingly desperate while the powerful riptide of the savage side becomes more difficult to resist.

Drawing from the true story of women killed in her native Ohio, acclaimed novelist and poet Tiffany McDaniel has written a powerful literary testament and fearless elegy for missing women everywhere.


Wow. That was my initial reaction upon finishing this book, just WOW. I’ve sat with my thoughts for awhile, it’s been several days since I finished this one and I needed some time to process my feelings. I almost didn’t have a choice in the matter, the way that these characters and this story got under my skin and in my heart and head is unmatched and unlike any other experience I’ve had with a book before. It’s the kind of story you cannot escape. I took my time reading it too, and there were many reasons for that as well. The story the author tells is harrowing and uncomfortable to read about so as a reader you will need to take a breather occasionally. But it is important and necessary and I don’t think it is the type of book you’re meant to read in just a few sittings. You’ll need time to sit with the beauty of the writing. You’ll need time to process the horrors you just read about. You’ll need time to think about all of the women who live lives like this. You’ll just need time, but the time invested is so very worthwhile.

I don’t think it’s necessary for me to get very far into the plot itself because there is a special kind of magic in the way this story unfolds. I will talk about the characters and the way the author humanizes the victims of the River Man because it gave a voice to women everywhere. Arc and Daffy are followed throughout several years, through life and death. Through addiction and prostitution. Through loss and more tragic loss. If there is an issue that anyone could find triggering it is in here at some point, but again it is important. I can’t even begin to describe how phenomenal the authors writing is, she’s on a level all of her own and it’s incredible. It’s haunting and devastatingly beautiful and the kind of poetry that speaks to my soul. It was an honor to read this one, I won’t soon forget it and I’m glad I won’t.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the author for my review copy.

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