In the 1970s, Dolly Freed lived off the land dirt cheap and plum easy. Living in their own house on a half-acre lot outside of Philadelphia for almost five years, Dolly and her father produced their own food and drink and spent roughly $700 each per year. Thirty years later, Dolly Freed's Possum Living is as fascinating and pertinent as it was in 1978. Tin House is reissuing the survivalist classic with a foreword by David Gates and an afterword by the author.
After discussing reasons why you should or shouldn't give up your job, Possum Living gives you details about the cheapest ways with the best results to buy and maintain your home, dress well, cope with the law, stay healthy, and keep up a middle-class facade whether you live in the city, in the suburbs, or in a small town.
In a delightful, straightforward style, Dolly Freed explains how to be lazy, proud, miserly, and honest, live well and enjoy leisure. She shares her knowledge for what you do need - your own home, for example - and what you don't need, such as doctors, lawyers, and insurance. Through her own example, Dolly hopes to inspire you to do some independent thinking about how economics affect the course of your life now and may do so in the coming "age of shortages". If you ever wondered what it would be like to be in greater control of your own life, Possum Living will show you and help you do it for yourself.
Half memoir, half how-to manual, Possum Living is a quirky, fun book, detailing how Dolly Freed and her father manage to do more than survive after her mother leaves the family with no money, and no source of income. With little more than their home, they have no choice but to adapt to their new circumstances and demonstrate that it’s not only possible to live on very little, but to enjoy doing it.
Although the book was written in the early 1970s, when Freed was just 18 years old, and some of the ideas are a bit outdated (which Freed now admits), it’s still a pleasant journey. The narration, done by the author herself, is spot-on, and fits perfectly with the writing. Her tone is conversational and friendly Freed is personally telling a great story, rather than reading words from a page. Her emotions, generally positive, flow freely, and give the listener a true sense of Dolly.
Freed and her father quickly accept their new frugal lives because they have to, although she makes it clear on numerous occasions that they prefer “possum living”; it’s simpler and there’s no stress. Although she’s upfront about her mother abandoning them, thus forcing them into this lifestyle, she’s never bitter or angry. It may not have been addressed in her writing, but the glowing style and happiness she uses to describe everything from gutting fish to making moonshine is hard to fake.
The afterword is an important part of the book, giving the listener a peek into Dolly’s life post-possum living. Refreshingly, although she speaks fondly of those times, Freed now professes a love for air conditioning and has no plans to live without it. She admits to being idealistic at a young age, and is not afraid to admit that she disagrees with some of the writings and opinions she expressed when she was younger. Lesley Grossman
“Compulsively readable…[In] this strange, engaging hymn to the laid-back life now, in 2010, one message comes out loud and clear. As the 18-year-old sage Dolly Freed wrote: ‘I refuse to spend the first 60 years of my life worrying about the last 20.’" (New York Times)
"An elegant memoir." (Philadelphia City Paper)
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Frugality by breaking the law, poisoning animals
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