Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Coming Home by Amy Dickinson
3 words: sprightly, romantic, domestic
Sometimes life offers you a Perfect Book, and all you want to do is read it and read it and read it.
This is one of those.
I just kept flagging quotes (with these adorable little arrow sticky notes I picked up at Le Target) because Amy Dickinson’s sentences kept delighting me. Here’s a paragraph of good ones:
“I would lie in bed at night in our farmhouse and listen to my mother power up the pump organ by stomping on its wooden pedals until its bellows filled with air. Then she’d start to play the chords to Burt Bacharach’s ‘This Guy’s in Love with You.’ Given the organ’s overall creepy pipe tones and asthmatic volume changes as my mother pedaled faster or slower, it sounded like a lounge act in a horror movie.” (p. 16)
So this book is funny and romantic and light-hearted in parts, and then sad and overwhelmed and dealing with wrenching loss. It’s just like life!
I loved Dickinson’s first memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville, which was the full story of her return to her small upstate New York town, to live among her extended family of women.
In this new book, she finds love mid-life (so romantic! so right!) and loses her mother (so sad and so stinkin’ difficult).
She writes things like this, which made me miss her mom (and mostly miss my own mom):
“There was a special quality and depth to her attentiveness. I often felt she paid better attention–or a better kind of attention–to me than I did to myself.” (p. 182)
And she writes all these things with candor and humor. Yes, she’s the nationally recognized “Ask Amy,” but she’s actually just living her complicated and beautiful and sometimes painful life just like the rest of us. Only she’s got the way of stringing together the words that makes her story absolutely entertaining and real and heartfelt.
And even though I’m kind of small-town-phobic (so many eyes watching a person’s every move), Amy (see how we’re already on first-name terms here? It’s that kind of book) loves small town living and it suits her well. She writes of her town with love and delight, and it almost makes me want to live there, too.
And that’s largely because of the people in this book, who obviously are real people, but the wonderful thing is the way Amy presents them to us, so we actually feel like we know them.
Give this book a whirl if you like… midlife romance, blending families, returning home, books that celebrate small towns and houses, and a mix of laughter and tears
What’s the best memoir you’ve read lately?