Before the holidays, I received a review copy of The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson. I love memoirs, so it was exciting to read and review it here.
Here’s the description of the book, from the info on its Amazon page:
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.
I finished this book with a sense that it was incomplete, that there was so much more potential in her life story that would have been inspiring. Her life is certainly interesting – one of her main distinctions is that she was the person chosen to replace Ann Landers’s syndicated advice column. She shared many interesting little pieces of her life – her break up with her husband, raising their daughter on her own, her relationship with her own father, how her extended family all live in the small town of Freeville, NY and see each other practically daily, etc. All of it was interesting, but each relationship/person in her life was described so minimally that you don’t get to know anyone very well. Specifically, it would have been wonderful to read more about her relationship with her daughter. They seemed to have a Gilmore Girls-esque relationship – very close, good friends, raising each other, and so on. Yet we rarely get to hear about her daughter Emily.
Also, all the women in her life (another unique circumstance – lots of female relatives, very few men) are surprisingly absent from most of the memoir. She comes from a big family of strong, supportive women, and it’s a shame they’re not in the book more often. Their stories and presence in the memoir would most likely have made the book more meaningful and interesting.
Still, it’s an enjoyable read. It moves along quickly thanks to Amy Dickinson’s clear and accessible writing voice. She’s a very nice person to spend a few hours with in her book. Maybe she’ll write another memoir someday with more from the Mighty Queens.
The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson will be released on February 3, 2009
Buy this book at an Independent Book Store
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For more info on the book, the Amazon page has a book trailer, and the Barnes and Noble page features a stream of the first six minutes of the audio book.
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