The Queen of Sleepy Eye

August 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Book and Movie Reviews

Written By Patti Hill 
Reviewed By J Renee Archer 

The Queen of Sleepy Eye is as much a work of art as a piece of literature. Patti Hill transports the reader into the life of a 17-year old young woman in the mid-70s. The plan was to travel to California to attend college and leave behind the unstable lifestyle she had growing up in Illinois. Her mother had a different idea and took a detour. A broken-down Coupe and no money meant Amy was stuck in a small town for the summer working and living in a funeral home. The months spent in the cozy town of Cordial gave Amy experiences that would forever change her world. She had a summer of moral and personal challenge and growth as she experienced joy, grief, love and hate.

The Queen of Sleepy Eye is the queen of descriptions. Hill has mastered the art of “show don’t tell” writing. My favorites include, “In a popped-pimple sort of way” and “the girls in Good & Plenty colors.” Her words turn intangible feelings into images the reader can grasp and, more importantly, identify with. I felt like I was part of the scenes created in the book. That is an amazing gift!

Hill succeeds at making the main character human (imperfect) and life-like (realistic). Amy felt, said and did things that were accurate and believable for a female teenage character. Development of the characters is thorough and complete. At the end of the book the reader can say with confidence that she knows Amy. I found myself wondering about Amy long after the last page was read.

I also want to commend Hill for an original story. The Queen of Sleepy Eye provides a plot unlike any novel I have read. The story has all the basic elements that make a good novel, like romance, conflict and good versus bad. Her combination of these elements results in a tale far from basic. I appreciated the twists on what could be considered standard plot developments.

Two minor nitpicks: a few phrases not fitting to the time period and a case of too many similes. There were a few instances when a character, said or thought something I couldn’t make fit with the time, 1975. “How dumb was that?” and “Kiss him, already.” seem to be trendy lingo for today rather than 30 years ago. And the similes? Three similes in a span of nine sentences were just too much for me.

While not every book is for every person, The Queen of Sleepy Eye is a good read for a broad audience. For those who remember the drama of discovering who you are, you will connect with Amy. For those who made some bad choices with life-changing consequences, you will relate to Amy’s mother. For those who experienced a single-parent family, you will recognize the parent/child dynamics.

Read the book and enjoy the innocence of the main character and the outstanding writing of Patti Hill.

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