A popular newspaper columnist candidly shares more memories of her altruistic life, past and present.
In this follow-up to The Mighty Queens of Freeville (2009), Dickinson, the ever wise voice (and Ann Landers successor) behind the widely syndicated “Ask Amy” advice column, is wryly sincere and poignant in her further stories about how she left tiny Freeville, New York, for more adventurous pastures, then returned to downshift through midlife to “resume the lifelong job of growing up.” Her book is rooted in landscape and people, featuring the bucolic hamlet (pop. 520) of her childhood and the family members who live close to the cozy house she inherited from her mother. Dickinson shares deeply entrenched memories of life on the farm in her early years, with a gaggle of siblings and her restless parents, Buck and Jane. The author also examines the domino effect of a deflated marriage, infidelity, single motherhood, and a temporary return to Freeville to regroup before heading off to stints in Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Anchoring the memoir is a gloriously detailed chronicling of her romantic courtship with Bruno, a former high school classmate who would steal her heart back home. Their marriage, when Dickinson was 50, had several minor stumbling blocks but successfully blended together a family of five daughters. “I was a newlywed,” she writes. “An over-the-hill, root-dying, hot-flash-suffering, slightly lumpy newlywed, but still—a bride.” Throughout the book, anecdotes on small-town life, blind dating, and convoluted tree removal intertwine with heart-rending moments about her aging father and stubborn, increasingly frail mother, who forced the author to face the sobering reality of relocating her to a care facility after months of “strategizing, subterfuge, and frustrated coercion.” Readers unfamiliar with Dickinson should begin with her first book, which gives a marvelous overview of a woman returning to her roots to restore her faith in family.
In this extension of her debut memoir, Dickinson remains an engagingly chatty, witty, and relatable writer with sage insights.