21 March 2009

5. The Mighty Queens of Freeville

A big Thank You to Hyperion Books for giving me the opportunity to read and review Amy Dickinson’s The Mighty Queens of Freeville. What a fantastic and relatable narrative which will leave her readers wondering which side of her family tree links up with their own. Never mind that she grew up in a very small town in upstate New York. Each summer I lived with my extended family in Western Tennessee and I am quite sure we must be related somehow because there were many Mighty Queens living in my small town in the Deep South. In fact, the cover could be a picture of my own family reunion when I was about ten. I vividly remember it because my aunt and grandmother had decided that, in spite of my lack of tatas, I needed a training bra. I was not quite sure what I was training for, but my three male cousins certainly knew that they were training for the bra strap snapping championship of the world. After being chased and tortured to the point of tears for an hour or so, I took off the offending bra and hid it in the cabinet under the sink in my aunt's bathroom. I assume they found it eventually, but had the grace not to mention it to me.

While Mighty Queens is not an in depth account of Amy Dickinson’s life, readers get a strong sense of how Amy and her daughter Emily grew up together through bad times and good. A single mother, Amy was devoted to her daughter even as she tried to make sense of her own life. In chapters dealing with her divorce, dating, and coming home, Amy made me laugh out loud repeatedly. Coming from a family of strong women, I could relate. Describing her own family, Amy writes, These are the women of my world – the Mighty Queens of Freeville – who have led small lives of great consequence in the tiny place that we call home. (p. 9)

Although it may seem disconcerting to some readers, I loved the back and forth, the future and the past narrative that flows throughout the book. Amy relates what is happening to what has happened and even to the possibilities of what may happen. In many ways, this is how we all think. As someone who always loves a good short story about the human condition, this style was very pleasing to me. In fact, for me, this stylistic choice added to the character and impact of the book.

As an early and frequent contributor to various NPR productions and the new Dear Abby (Ask Amy) for the Chicago Tribune and 200 syndicated papers, Amy Dickinson has become very successful. As we read this book, we realize that perhaps success has not changed her too much, she is still the daughter of a woman from Freeville, she is still the mother of a daughter from Freeville, and her heart remains with these women with whom she has shared this wonderful, albeit sometimes painful, life.

If my review has not done this book justice and you cannot decide whether you should run out and purchase it, please take a look at the author’s website. I know I am a Mighty Queen; you might be as well.

TITLE: The Mighty Queens of Freeville
AUTHOR: Amy Dickinson
PAGES: 224
TYPE: non-fiction, memoir
RECOMMEND: Because these people were like my relatives, I loved it.