Book Review: The Mighty Queens of Freeville

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A story of love, loss and rebuilding in a small town.

Having not read a physical newspaper in roughly 10 years, a book by a newspaper advice columnist didn’t even register on my to-read list. My book club however, made up of roughly twenty 60+ year old women, were absolutely thrilled about this title so we gave it a shot! The story centers around Amy Dickinson, now well respected as an advice columnist, and her journey from happily married mom to single parent of a small daughter. We quickly learn that Amy’s husband, who is only ever referred to as “my ex-husband” rather than name, has cheated on her and left her after they relocated to London for his job. Alone and lost, Amy decides to take a leap of faith and move back to the small New York town of Freeville where she grew up.

As one can assume from the title, the women of Freeville not only support Amy and help her get settled back into a new life, they are constantly taking care of one another, from offering advice and home assistance to driving each other to medical appointments. The women of Freeville are not all related by blood, though Amy’s family takes up a significant percentage of the town’s population, but nevertheless they are connected by friendship and decades worth of trust.

The book is set up in an interesting way. While Amy goes through her life chronologically, we do not read about every snippet of her life. It’s not as heavy on biography as it is more a narrative series of personal essays, each building upon the other and educating Amy. We travel with Amy back and forth from Washington DC and Freeville, from freelance work to becoming the next Ann Landers, from a string of bad dates to a understanding moment with the father who abandoned her family,  and experience the change in her daughter Emily from birth to her first day of college.

Although I could never in a million years live in a small town like Freeville (population roughly 500 at the time of the book) even I found myself slightly jealous of the close interpersonal relationships between the women of Freeville. I have never had an issue making or keeping friends, but with our current more digital age my friendships are spread out over a wide area. To have such deep bonds with people so close, close enough that the women in this book have weekly breakfasts together, made me yearn for a similar group. The book makes small town life seem warm and comforting rather than claustrophobic and narrow. Amy writes as though you’re sitting at the breakfast table with the women of Freeville, chatting about the shifts in her life rather than being told what’s happening. Reading this book feels more like experiencing a day in the life of Amy Dickinson rather than reading about her simply telling the reader what she’s experiencing.

My only criticism of the book, which isn’t at all a negative thing, is that when I finished reading it I didn’t feel like any of it would stick with me. It was a well-written, interesting and heartwarming story, sometimes falling slightly into Hallmark movie territory, but entirely pleasant. I would equate this book with eating angel food cake. It’s delicious and sweet and hits the spot when you need a little something to tide you over, but soon after you’ve forgotten you’ve even eaten. There’s no real substance here and I forgot a lot of what happened a few days after finishing the book. It’s a great, uplifting read to cleanse a palette, but if you’re looking for something heavy that will stick with you for a long time this might not be it. And that isn’t a bad thing! We all need comfort food. This book was a great example of a nice comforting read one can go back to whenever you need it.

Title: The Mighty Queens of Freeville
Author: Amy Dickinson
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 225
ISBN: 978-1401322854

Three Descriptors: Heartwarming, Comforting, Second Chances

Read Alikes
A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel
The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow
The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love by Jill Conner Browne
Lies Chelsea Handler Told Me by Chelsea Handler

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