Home » Book Review: On the Savage Side by Tiffany McDaniel

Book Review: On the Savage Side by Tiffany McDaniel

Once or twice a year, my mood reader heart craves a book that will rip me apart and leave me changed. On the Savage Side by Tiffany McDaniel took that as a challenge and grabbed ahold of my heart without mercy. 

I’m a huge fan of McDaniel’s writing. She authored Betty in 2020 and it was one of my favorite reads of the year. I’ve since been waiting (not so patiently) for her next heart-wrenching book.

Before I dive into my review, check out the synopsis of On the Savage Side below:


Six women–mothers, 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.

My spoiler-free thoughts:

It’s five stars for me, but in a “read this book, it’s going to completely wreck you” type of way. Clocking in at 464 pages, it’s one of those books that looks huge but you fly right through in some sort of ethereal experience.

In the same vein as Betty, On the Savage Side is not for the faint of heart. It goes deep into rough and painful topics such as drug addiction and sexual abuse of a child, but McDaniel’s writing is so mesmerizingly beautiful and writes about these topics with intention. If you have reading sensitivities, I would suggest looking up themes before diving into this one.

The one phrase that keeps coming to mind when I try to describe the weight of this story is heartbreakingly beautiful. It’s hard to read and sad, reminiscent of Demon Copperhead (review linked), but there’s this thread of hope woven throughout the story that kept me cheering for Arc and Daffy. The ending left me speechless, stunned, and with a little whiplash. 

Save this story for a time when you have the emotional capacity for a deep and powerful read.  

On the Savage Side is out now. You can order it and all of my other favorites from the Books list in my Amazon Storefront! Be on the lookout for a Five Star Cocktail in honor of On the Savage Side on my Instagram page soon!

Want more Five Star Cocktails?

Strawberry Basil Margarita for The Hotel Nantucket by Elin Hilderbrand

Strawberry Bourbon Smash for Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Spice Pineapple Margarita for I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

French 75 for Atomic Habits by James Clear

Spicy Passion Fruit Margarita for The Reunion

Large Batch Strawberry Margaritas for Maame by Jessica George

What are your thoughts on Tiffany McDaniel’s books? Do you have a favorite? Is On the Savage Side on your TBR? 

Leave a comment below and let’s chat!

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