Arcade and Daffodil are twins born one minute apart. 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.
The novel uses creative structural tactics that break up Arc’s narration ... McDaniel’s sentences are often striking, ethereal and transcendent ... After 454 pages of searing pain... 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.
Readers shouldn't come to On the Savage Side expecting a typical crime novel ... [McDaniel] isn't concerned with making the language naturalistic. Everyone in the novel... speaks a heightened, poetic language likely never heard in Chillicothe or anywhere else, full of mythological and literary references. Disconcerting at first, the language quickly comes to feel normal, a way of bringing the characters' deeper feelings to the surface.
In this richly imaginative story, McDaniel takes the reader on a journey that is both painful and violent, but it shows the power of the human imagination to survive and offers a testament to women who, despite their strength, died in darkness. While this haunting and spellbinding tale is definitely not an easy read, it is thought-provoking, deeply moving, and rich with meaning.