Article first published as Book Review: My Annie: The True to Life Story of a Liberated Woman Written by her Husband by Douglas Richie on Blogcritics.
Born in mid 1926, Annie Whitaker Richie could have grown up to be exactly like all of the other girls living in this time period – quiet, submissive, a housewife and a stay at home mom, and someone with no life outside of the four walls they call ‘home’. Yet despite the negative and demeaning experiences she endured from her own mother during a difficult childhood and the cultural norm of restriction for women, she fought to break free of the general mold labeled ‘proper wife’ and went on to live an uncommon and invigorating life. Call her forward-thinking, call her educated, or call her liberated. But to her husband - and the author of her biography - she’s just ‘My Annie’.
“My Annie: The True to Life Story of a Liberated Woman Written by her Husband” is an extensive biography. Written by her loving husband, the story follows Annie from the time she was a little girl, through college and their courtship, through four children and two surprise overseas adoptions, (where they went over to Korea for one child and came back with two), through international travels and volunteering, and up to present day where she happily lives with Douglas Richie in Carlsbad, California. She describes the high points in her life but she also shares the low ones – her husband’s firing and brush with a breakdown, the eventual break from the two difficult Korean adoptees, and running away from her family to the tropical islands of Hawaii. Her amazing story is one of hope, faith, and determination.
“My Annie” is a cherished find for fans of biographies and autobiographies. The vivid recounting of the various stories is genuine and heartfelt while the sheer amount of detail included is surprising and impressive! I couldn’t believe how clear each chapter’s descriptions were – I really felt like I was put into the setting and could see what she was seeing or feel what she was feeling. For example, the meticulous elements of their first date are included: that there had been a polio epidemic that year, that the boys they hung out with were all in the glee club, that her and her eventual-husband talked of things like the trains, or that he had the same last name that the head of a work camp she’d gone to had, etc, etc, etc. Or the fact that she got penicillin every three hours, day and night, when she developed a horrible case of strep throat in college. This kind of detail is in every page, every story, and every chapter. The book took you through each phase of Annie’s life and allowed you to be a part of her thought process and growth. While written by her husband, the book relays the entirety of her story in first person. I thought this might make the story more difficult to read but it gave the tone a deeply personal feel. Douglas Richie does an impeccable job ‘becoming’ Annie and bringing her story to life. He further excels at keeping the book flowing so as not to weigh down the reader or allow things to get boring. Both organization and editing are top-notch. I was disappointed that there weren’t more photographs of Annie throughout the years, though. There are two pictures at the very end of the book – one family picture and one of her four children when they were very young. Inspirational and entertaining!
My Annie: The True to Life Story of a Liberated Woman Written by her Husband
Outskirts Press (2011)
Reviewed by Vicki Liston for Reader Views (1/12)