BookBrowse Reviews King Peggy by Peggielene Bartels, Eleanor Herman

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King Peggy

An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village

by Peggielene Bartels, Eleanor Herman

King Peggy by Peggielene Bartels, Eleanor Herman
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2012, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2013, 368 pages

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A real-life fairy tale about an American woman who is chosen to be king of an African village

Peggielene Bartels's real-life fairy tale about being chosen as king in an African village has inspired positive reviews from BookBrowse readers. 22 out of 25 people rate King Peggy 4 or 5 stars! Here's what they have to say:

What an uplifting book about the village of Otuam and its king, Peggy Bartels. Although she has been chosen to be king in Africa, she still works at the Ghanaian embassy in Washington as a secretary who uses whatever she has to improve conditions in her village. The elders in her council are used to stealing, drinking, and carousing without limits and think they can control Peggy because she is a woman who lives in America. When Peggy comes to power, she thinks only of improving her country by bringing education, clean water, and better living conditions. She will remind you of Mme Ramotswe in the Alexander McCall Smith No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series... But King Peggy's story is real (Nancy L).

Some people enjoyed learning about the people and culture in Otuam, Ghana:
It was refreshing to read a story regarding Africa where the main theme was not about war, violence, extreme poverty, child soldiers, and "just falling apart." Not that these conditions don't exist, but the emphasis is on the town and people of Otuam, Ghana and their everyday lives (Beverly J). The descriptions of the area, from the rutted roads to the ravaged palace, and of the people, comical or larcenous, bring the story to life. I particularly enjoyed reading about the unusual traditions and rituals that are a part of life in Ghana, such as pouring liberal amounts of liquor (or in some cases Coke) to attain the blessings of the ancestors before events like the enstoolment of a new king. And how business owners are careful to choose names like "By the Grace of God Brake and Clutch Center," believing that a religious reference would bring them good luck (Dorothy T).

While others were inspired by the awesome power of just one person:
What a wonderful book! It shows what one seemingly small, insignificant person can do to change the lives of so many people. King Peggy is my new hero. Long live the King (Kat F)! She accepts the job not knowing how run down and rife with thievery the place has become. It's a fascinating read of what one person with determination can do (Shelby L). The story of what Peggy accomplishes is nothing short of amazing. The book is full of many interesting characters, and the often dire situations are described with a good deal of humor. This is a wonderful, uplifting story (Donna W).

A few readers, however, thought there was room for improvement:
While this is Peggielene Bartels's story and is being told by her, it is not written in the first person. I would have liked that (Ariel F). I would have appreciated an indication of how to pronounce some of the unfamiliar words (Nancy A). I found the prose style problematic. Sometimes it read like a fable, sometimes like a middle school reader (Patricia T).

But the majority of readers found it both entertaining and well-written: The book is written in an open and simple style. You feel you are part of the experience not being hit over the head. You cheer for Peggy and her faith in everyone (Peggy N). King Peggy is one woman I'd love to have sitting in my living room for an evening of good talk. Her story is eloquently written. It is endearing and enduring. The words flow comfortably and I had a hard time putting it down (Maggie)!

Who should read this book?
I already recommended King Peggy to a friend of mine traveling to Ghana in the spring, and my students are learning a lot from it (Laura L). King Peggy is a warm, delightful book. It will appeal to the fans of the No 1 Ladies Detective series (Susan P). It reads like a novel with humor and heartbreak interspersed throughout the story. I will definitely recommend this book to many of my library patrons (Suzanne R). I think the book will appeal particularly to women of middle-age (Nancy A). I would recommend this book for book clubs that deal with travel, world cultures or the role of women (Ariel F). King Peggy would be a great young adult book as a basis for a research project or paper (Carole A), and I recommend this book to readers who enjoy inspirational stories about grass-root movements (Beverly J).

This review was originally published in March 2012, and has been updated for the February 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



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