There was not a singular moment that signaled to Amy Dickinson her marriage was over. Not her husband showing up to counseling with a suitcase having just returned from a European vacation with a girlfriend. Not when he told her he no longer loved her. Not when he said that they no longer had anything in common. And not when he reminded her that most of the men in the lives of her family had left, so it was probably something she expected. Nope. It wasn’t until the moving trucks were sitting outside of her door that she registered the finality of their dissolution and was forced to move forward in life as a single mother. THE MIGHTY QUEENS OF FREEVILLE is Dickinson’s account of her survival, and ultimate triumph, with the help of the women who had raised her.

It was my own mother, a single mom herself, who recommended this book to me after hearing about it on NPR or the morning news circuit or some talk show. See, Dickinson is actually a pretty famous person. She’s the Amy of “Ask Amy” the advice columnist who replaced Ann Landers. She also appears frequently on NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me” and “All Things Considered”. And she didn’t start out that way. No, she started in Freeville, NY a small town of fewer than 1,000 people. She started surrounded by strong women who keep on when the keeping on is all you can do. And when Dickinson needed to keep on for her own sake and that of her two year old daughter, it’s where she returned. Repeatedly.


Despite the title, the other women play a more secondary role than I expected. The book focuses on singular moments in Dickinson’s emergence from divorce into self-sufficient, single-mother. Yes, there were a number of times that she returned to Freeville (she even bought a ramshackle house for a mere $56K to serve as a second home and safe landing spot when she needed the comfort and reassurances of home). But the book really focused on Dickinson and her daughter, Emily. That being said, I found the book thoroughly engaging, humorous, poignant and full of resonating moments.


THE MIGHTY QUEENS OF FREEVILLE came to me at a perfect time. My own single-motherhood status becomes officially official any day now and with that comes a mixture of emotions. While my situation is very different from Dickinson’s, the loss of a marriage is significant, mourn-worthy and creates some of the most challenging moments going forward and out into the world with a new status. Dickinson’s writing style is familiar and comforting and is probably one of the reasons she’s a successful advice columnist. She’s comfortable in her own skin, thanks to the independence and self-sufficiency gained early on when her own father left the family high and dry. She’s bright and engaging and a bit of a self-proclaimed dork which endeared her to me further.


THE MIGHTY QUEENS OF FREEVILLE certainly has a niche demographic of readers in divorced single mothers, but I actually think it’s a great book for all women struggling, needing support of others, connecting with their own resiliency and surviving because of and in spite of everything they have experienced.


And with gems like these, how could you not want to pick it up?:
[blockquote]On Her Mother (After Her Father Left)

She simply prevailed. Prevailing is underrated. People have the idea that unless they win, they lose. But sometimes surviving is enough. My mother knew this, and I learned it by watching her.

On Dating

The search for connection is the most basic and beautiful impulse I have. I try to enjoy my efforts–even when they are misguided, not reciprocated or doofus in the extreme.

On Advice to Her College-bound Daughter

I told her that the feelings she has when she is young will be the same feelings when she’s old, and that she should try not to be afraid of them. I wanted her to be bold in her choices but careful in her actions. I told her never to be mean to someone who loved her, because regret is the only true casualty of love.[/blockquote]

Rating: 4 stars
Pages: 240

Genre: Memoir