Possum Living

  • by Dolly Freed
  • Narrated by Dolly Freed, Paige Williams
  • 5 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.

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Audible Editor Reviews

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Although the book was written in the early 1970s, when Freed was just 18 years old, and some of the ideas are a bit outdated (which Freed now admits), it’s still a pleasant journey.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

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What the Critics Say

“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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Frugality by breaking the law, poisoning animals

Really, really awful. There are better books on the market that advocate legal means to save money. Someone owes you money? Is suing you? Just call and threaten them or poison their dog. I don't care if her 2010 self says she does not agree with doing this anymore, it should never had been said, let alone reprinted. Don't want to pay taxes? Don't. She does not mention how much money or jail time it will cost you when you are caught. Too many baby bunnies? Just drown a few, "it's not as cruel as it sounds." Oh? I grew up on a farm, and though we were poor, we never drowned our baby rabbits. We DID hand raise the extras and gave them away as pets. Much of what Freed says is just not legal, moral, or practical. Those things that ARE of interest and worth can be found in other, better books. The Tightwad Gazette comes to mind, but there are others. Pass on this one.
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- Lori

Thought I was frugal until I read this...

A possum (and Dolly) can live anywhere, hence the title of the book. She and her father managed to live an entirely self-sufficient life without employment or welfare. Of course you can't live independently if you have a "normal" outlook, which is the crux of the matter. The book is a fascinating account, written when Dolly was 18, of how she and her father spent their days. She shares her can-do attitude as well as practical details and recipes. Her straightforward enthusiasm makes the book easy listening, regardless of whether she is talking about how to catch, kill, and prepare a turtle for cooking or how to work up to running miles at full speed. She freely acknowledges that we might not all want to do these things. It's understood that she is just letting us know we can have choices.

But there's more. I couldn't help wondering what kind of adult Dolly would grow into - would she live with her father forever? So for me, the most interesting part was at the end. Dolly gives her perspective on the book 30 years on, and tells us what happened to her between then and now. Listen to the very end. There is also an interesting article about her by journalist Paige Williams, and a commentary by novelist David Gates, who based a character on Dolly but clearly doesn't "get" possum living. Neither will all listeners, but that doesn't mean they won't find the book thought-provoking.
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- Anon

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-15-2010
  • Publisher: Audible Studios