Lessons from an Advice Columnist
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Lessons from an Advice Columnist

Columnist Amy Dickinson reveals the power of women and small towns.

When men leave, relying on female family members is not only okay, it can be great, says Amy Dickinson in her new memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville. That's what Dickinson (whose syndicated advice column "Ask Amy" replaced Ann Landers' in 2003) learned when she returned home to tiny Freeville, New York, after her husband informed her that he had a girlfriend. Dickinson took her toddler daughter, Emily, and moved into her sister Rachel's house.

"Our first days in Freeville," Dickinson recalled, "involved lots of coffee drinking and toilet paper. We are not Kleenex people, so when it looked like my case of chronic crying might be...terminal, Rachel gave me my own roll of Charmin."

The Mighty Queens (named by Dickinson's daughter because "like the best monarchs, we rule fairly and from a distance") immediately set about doctoring mother and daughter. With the help of rituals, like regular visits to the diner, "These women taught me what family is about," she says. "They helped me pick up the pieces when my life fell apart, and we reassembled them together into something new."

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, March 2009.

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