I didn’t realize when I picked the books that I would be reading this week that I would be immersing myself in the sixties. I started with Ordinary Grace and was sent to a tragic summer in a small town in 1961. Then I picked up Miss Dreamsville and found myself in Naples, Florida in 1962. Not only are both books set in the 1960s, they are both told by the main character looking back in time. In this case it is Dora Witherspoon, now 80, who is looking back at this turbulent time.
When Jackie (soon to become radio personality Miss Dreamsville) comes to Naples, Florida from Boston, she brings her Yankee ways and ideas with her and decides to start a literary society. The members are a bunch of misfits – the divorced Dora, a woman who secretly writes sex articles for magazines, a woman convicted of murdering her husband, a black housekeeper, a librarian, and a gay man. They share books, and experiences, as they grow towards acceptance of themselves.
“Maybe freedom means defining yourself any way you want to be.”
With the backdrop of the south in the 60s, the KKK, civil rights, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, combined with the idea of a group of outcasts finding themselves and friendship through the sharing of books, this book could have been great. Unfortunately, it was only OK – a quick, light, and enjoyable read without a lot of depth. The main characters were lightly sketched and other characters in the novel were almost non-existent in their characterization. It was hard to tell whether or not I should like them – or whether I should even care.
I’m not saying that I hated it, I didn’t – it was entertaining – I was just disappointed. The concept was there with an eclectic group of characters, a great setting, and plenty of opportunity for exploration of backgrounds, storylines, underlying issues, etc. Unfortunately most of it seemed to be quickly glossed over and in the end it left me wanting.
Title: Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society
Author: Amy Hill Hearth
Publication: Atria Books, October 2012