Review - The Mighty Queens of Freeville

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter, and the Town That Raised Them
Amy Dickinson 
 Hyperion, 240 p, ISBN-10: 1401322859
About the Book

Millions of Americans know and love Amy Dickinson from reading her syndicated advice column "Ask Amy" and from hearing her wit and wisdom weekly on National Public Radio. Amy's audience loves her for her honesty, her small-town values, and the fact that her motto is "I make the mistakes so you don't have to." In The Mighty Queens of Freeville, Amy Dickinson shares those mistakes and her remarkable story. This is the tale of Amy and her daughter and the people who helped raise them after Amy found herself a reluctant single parent.

Though divorce runs through her family like an aggressive chromosome, the women in her life taught her what family is about. They helped her to pick up the pieces when her life fell apart and to reassemble them into something new. It is a story of frequent failures and surprising successes, as Amy starts and loses careers, bumbles through blind dates and adult education classes, travels across the country with her daughter and their giant tabby cat, and tries to come to terms with the family's aptitude for "dorkitude."

They have lived in London, D.C., and Chicago, but all roads lead them back to Amy's hometown of Freeville (pop. 458), a tiny village where Amy's family has tilled and cultivated the land, tended chickens and Holsteins, and built houses and backyard sheds for more than 200 years. Most important, though, her family members all still live within a ten-house radius of each other. With kindness and razor-sharp wit, they welcome Amy and her daughter back weekend after weekend, summer after summer, offering a moving testament to the many women who have led small lives of great consequence in a tiny place.

About the Author

Amy Dickinson is the author of the syndicated advice column "Ask Amy," which appears in more than 150 newspapers nationwide. She is the host of a biweekly feature on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" and is a panelist on NPR's quiz show "Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me!" She lives in Chicago and Freeville, New York.

My Thoughts

One of the first thoughts that popped into my head after I finished reading this book was that Reading it had felt exactly like one of those gab sessions I've personally had with female friends and family. That's truly how The Mighty Queens... reads. It's warm, it's friendly, it's rambling and overall, it's fun!

Before reading this book I had only a vague idea of who Amy Dickinson is. After reading this, I feel I've begun to have a handle on why she's as popular as she is. Having never read her advice column, I was a tad disappointed that in her book the author gives no examples of her work or how she handles that famous work-aspect of her life. It is however, intriguing to see what keeps Amy so grounded and how it's the source of the wisdom that's behind her well-received column.

Readers are shown an Amy Dickinson who is as human as the rest of us - at times scared, vulnerable and yes, a failure. Failed marriages are not something to be mourned forever, but rather shown as something that's become a part of life and must be endured and overcome like any other obstacle. What is most inspiring is how she draws strength from her family, particularly her Mom, her daughter and other female relatives, in the direst of times. While not must is disclosed about said female relatives, their impact on Amy's life is clearly shown as is the influence which the small town of Freeville has had on this free spirited and unconsciously adventurous woman.

From pets to dates, careers to motherhood, politics to vacations, Amy Dickinson touches upon every topic with varying degrees of frankness and part of the fun lies in discovering how she always manages to handle things in her own unique way, often in way that's contrary to popular opinion. This is an aspect that I think gives fortitude to all those who, like her, choose to think and act outside the box!

In Short

I enjoyed reading this book which made me feel like I was sitting there talking to a friend, one I had known for years. That's something rare and one well worth sharing. I recommend it!

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