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Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Mighty Queens of Freeville

Dickinson, Amy. The Mighty Queens of Freeville.

I want to live in Freeville and have Amy as a friend! I really didn't know what to expect of this ARC, but feel lucky to have received it. It is probably not a book I'd have chosen on my own, and I would have missed a wonderful opportunity. The book will be released on Feb. 3, don't miss this one.

Amy Dickinson is the "new" Ann Landers; she writes the syndicated advice column, "Ask Amy."

The book is full of wry humor, and I was hooked after the introduction when she says of her (almost entirely female) family:

We seem to be less than successful on many superficial levels. We don't have money. We aren't upwardly mobile. We aren't naturally thin or beautiful. We don't have advanced degrees, long-term career goals, or plans for retirement.
The book opens with Dickinson looking back on her divorce and the difficulty she had in accepting the end of her marriage. "Granted, the day my husband showed up at our marriage counseling session wheeling a suitcase, having just come in from a trip to Europe with his girlfriend," she says, "was a clue that our marriage was in trouble."

Her family, however, is the core of who she is and provides her with a sense of place and history. She is always cognizant of their impact on her life; her mother, sisters, aunts, and cousins, Amy and Emily--The Mighty Queens of Freeville.

With retrospective insight, Dickinson relates the events involved in the divorce: being left with an infant daughter, learning to deal with her husband's betrayal, and security provided by the family support and nurturing she received. She examines the past with more than insight, however, because enough time has past for her to tell the story of her divorce and recovery with a perfect pitch of humor attached to the old grief.

She and her daughter Emily prosper. As a single parent, Dickinson learns many things about being a mother and the importance of having a place like Freeville as a base of emotional cheer leading. She learns from her mother, her aunts, her sisters, and from experience.

The numerous little vignettes of mother and daughter making their way in the world are touching and hilarious. One of my favorite chapters is "Making Peanut Jesus: Finding God in the Community of Faith and Casseroles."

As a Sunday School teacher in Washington, D. C., Dickinson worked hard at crafts. When, after creating a creche including Mary and Joseph (made of toilet paper rolls) and Baby Jesus (a swaddled peanut), she must deal with the second-grader who ate the Baby Jesus, she finds herself struggling for words. Responding to questions like, "Does the Virgin Mary have nipples?" teaches Dickinson the skill of quick recovery.

Counteracting the wealthy Episcopalian church in D.C. is the Freeville United Method Church--the church of faith and casseroles. The women in her family are all musical, and "It was the sound of my family's gene pool choir that first brought me into the mysterious community of faith and casseroles...."

Pumpkin the cat, holidays and summers in Freeville, the move to Chicago, Emily's leaving for college are all part of Amy Dickinson's journey from divorce to the present.

The book is charming, funny, and a joy to read! Dickinson's voice is a pleasure from beginning to end.

Nonfiction. Biography/Memoir. 2009. 225 pages.


  1. This does sound like an interesting memoir, Jenclair. Thank you for the great review!

  2. Great review! I'll keep my eyes open for this one at the library.

  3. Hi -- Amy Dickinson here; I wrote the book mentioned above. My daughter Emily sent me this link with the message, "I think this will make you smile." It did. Thank you so much for reading my little book and for your wonderful comments. I appreciate it so much!

  4. Oh, this sounds good! I read so many memoirs of people with wildly dysfunctional evil families - this sounds nice. I won't have to fret about what family members are having their feelings hurt.

  5. LF - I truly enjoyed it!

    JoAnn - It should be there before long. I hope many libraries have it on their lists.

    Amy - Your book was such a pleasure to read. It made ME smile over and over!

    jennysbooks - It was a great read and her family was certainly functional and more.

  6. Amy's big sister here -- what a lovely review!

    Rachel Dickinson

  7. Wow, this sounds so much like my life that I probably should read it.

  8. Rachel - Thanks! Still got her back, I see!

    Framed - You should. You will enjoy it.

  9. Thank you for this great review. I've copied it into my book ideas folder. It sounds like a fiction book, doesn't it? One of those wonderful Southern women stories.

  10. Nan - It was certainly as much fun as fiction!

  11. Thanks for the review. I just requested "The Mighty Queens of Freeville" at my library and I am second on the list. I should get it real soon

  12. Jenclair
    I just finished "The Mighty Queens of Freeville" and I DID enjoy it tremendously. Amy and Emily and Pumpkin the cat seem like old friends to me now.
    Thanks for the review.

  13. Chancy - I'm so glad you liked it, too!