Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society by Amy Hill Hearth
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: 2012
The Short Version:
Collier County Florida in 1962 isn’t quite prepared for Boston transplant Jackie Hart.
Why I Read It:
After reading Jen’s review at Devourer of Books I decided that this would be a good light post holiday read and I was right.
From the publisher:
Eighty-year-old Dora, the narrator of a story that began a half century earlier, is bonding with an unlikely set of friends, including Jackie Hart, a restless middle-aged wife and mother from Boston, who gets into all sorts of trouble when her family moves to a small, sleepy town in Collier County, Florida, circa 1962.
With humor and insight the novel chronicles the awkward North-South cultural divide as Jackie, this hapless but charming “Yankee,” looks for some excitement in her life by accepting an opportunity to host a local radio show where she creates a mysterious, late-night persona, “Miss Dreamsville,” and by launching a reading group—the Collier County Women’s Literary Society—thus sending the conservative and racially segregated town into uproar. The only townspeople who venture to join are regarded as outsiders at best—a young gay man, a divorced woman, a poet, and a young black woman who dreams of going to college.
I knew from reading Jen’s review that this book wasn’t as saccharine as that description made it sound, otherwise I might not have picked it up. I’m glad I did though because it was both light and touching.
Dora who tells the story in hindsight is a good narrator. I liked her from the early pages. Partly because of who she is and partly because she’s telling the story from a distance of many years, her observations and insights into the other characters work well.
Parts of this story were fun and parts were quite sobering. Robbie-Lee as the town’s only gay man made me laugh out loud several times. His mother (a former dancer turned alligator hunter) is the kind of quirky character I enjoy. It’s not all quirky and made for laughs though. Jackie’s burgeoning feminism creates problems for her and her family.
The group of misfits who form the literary society learn from and teach each other creating strong bonds. Dora tells the story and Jackie is very much the central point around which the story spins with secrets both kept and revealed along the way. All in all it was a mostly light but not completely schmaltzy reminder of how far women (and gay men) have come since the early sixties.
This is just a couple of quotes I enjoyed along the way.
After the group read Breakfast at Tiffany’s one of the characters perfectly summed up why I don’t like to talk about “who should play who if this book is made into a movie” conversations.
“I had trouble imagining the Holly Golightly character as anyone other than Audrey Hepburn too,” Miss Lansbury said. “And the funny thing is, I had read the book first! But that’s the problem with film compared to books. When you read, you fill in the blank spaces yourself, using your own imagination. When you see a movie, someone else has chosen what you will see.”
And this is just so true.
There’s an old southern saying that if you’re worried about your weight, your clothes, or getting old, then you don’t have any real problems.
I suppose there are two worlds — the small, protected one we carve out for ourselves, where we fret about a whole lot of nothing, and the other world, the real one, which comes knocking at the door, demanding to be let in and given a seat.