28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2012
My sibs and I used to jeer that at each other when one of us was getting too big for his britches; but it actually happened to Peggielene Bartels, naturalized American and secretary at the Ghanian embassy in Washington. Unknown to her, she was the chosen heir of her Uncle Joseph, king of the Ghanian fishing village of Otuam. The omens consulted by the elders had confirmed his unusual choice.
Uncle Joseph, though a king, had not been a wealthy man, so Peggielene had for years been sending part of her modest salary home for the maintenance of her uncle and the village. When a cousin called her one night to tell her to she was the new king, she at first thought she was dreaming.
However, when she flew to Ghana for her investiture she found more of a nightmare. During her uncle's long decline several of the village elders had done very well for themselves; stealing taxes and illegally selling off crown land and pocketing the proceeds. The royal coffers were empty, the palace uninhabitable, and there was not even enough money to bury Uncle Joseph with the honors due a king. With a new mostly absentee king who was a `mere' woman, the elders fully expected to be able to continue to run the town for their exclusive benefit.
In a society where women are still expected to modestly lower their eyes and obey when addressed by men, the elders couldn't have possibly reckoned on feisty Peggielene. Determined that crown revenues should be used for the benefit of the people, she `packed' her Council of Elders with honest and competent men and women and opened the first checking account in the village to track the funds. Publicity in America brought Peggy and her village to the attention of Shiloh Baptist Church in Landover, Maryland, whose membership officially `adopted' Otuam; helping to acquire pumps for clean water, a new school, and ambulances.
This is a wonderfully warm, humorous, and informative true story which is far from over. Peggy's use of righteous anger, good humored guile, and judicious compromise to manage and redirect her obstreperous and self-serving Council for the benefit of her people offers political advice of the highest order. I wonder if she would consider running for Congress?
Edited to add: King Peggy has a Facebook page with many wonderful photos of the events in the book. Check it out!
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Peggy Bartels was a Ghanaian-American woman, working a demanding secretarial job at the Ghanaian embassy in D.C. Separated from her husband, her life outside work was minimal. Then she got a middle-of-the-night call telling her that she'd been elected king of her ancestral village in Ghana -- a village she'd only visited a few times.
Should she accept the offer? Well, of course she should and does, and thankfully we now have this wonderful memoir to read. Peggy saves up her money and goes back to visit her family in Ghana and be installed as king. Naturally she finds that much is not as it should be. And, as we readers expect (but some of the people back in Ghana don't), Peggy shakes things up. Humorous, touching, informative, and totally enjoyable. Don't miss.
Edited to add: If you're on Facebook, you can "like" Ms. Bartels' "King Peggy" page. There are lots of wonderful photos as well as updates about author appearances. As I write it's only "liked" by 16 people, so you can still be among the first!
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
First of all, you need to know - I LOVED THIS BOOK! It has everything I love in a book: great characters, a great story line, wonderful humor but best of all, it's a true story! I did not want to go to sleep because I wanted to know what happened next! What will those crazy people do THIS time!?!?!?!
The only complaint I have is that I wanted photographs, LOTS of photographs, so I could see the village and the people, and more shots of Peggy as King, beyond the single shot on the cover.
The things we can accomplish when we put our minds to it . . . . King Peggy proves it!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
African by birth, American by choice, and King by calling. This is a most unusual and thoroughly enjoyable true and current story of how one person of limited resources here in the U.S. still had a huge impact in an African village.
On the one hand, we learn a lot about daily life in Ghana, and some of its history. On the other hand, we see in action an economic development strategy that actually works, and incorporates the best of both American and African values and approaches to problems.
Best of all, the story continues, and readers can become part of the story and solution by partnering with King Peggy's ongoing work through her American church.
Highly recommended for anyone interested in better tomorrows for Africa, an economic development model that actually works to overcome endemic corruption, or in need of a reminder about how much of a positive difference one ordinary person can make in our world.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The 11-year-old I babysit and I read this book together and both LOVED it. It was the first book I brought over that she was genuinely excited to read, and she followed me around the house after we read the back cover asking me questions ("How do you think she felt to be king? How did she get to be king? What did she do when she got to Ghana?"). It was fun to read the book as quickly as we could to try to find answers to the questions we both had. It's also inspiring to get to share the story of both a woman and someone of color rising to a leadership position AND having to deal with the expectations of others and realities of being a leader.
I have to say, I agree with other reviewers in that I wanted WAY more photos than the one on the cover. I wanted to visualize her as a secretary - what were her days like? And then, in Ghana, what did the village look like? I read another reviewer's suggestion to "Like" her on facebook, so I think my babysitting charge and I will look through the pictures together sometime. However, it would have been nice to just have them in the book.
In all, that didn't detract enough from my enjoyment for this to deserve any less than five stars, since the story was so compelling. Know that this is absolutely appropriate to share with young women, and is a particularly inspiring memoir.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Not too many people could be more surprised than Peggiliene Bartels, who in a 4 am phone call had her life transformed. The first surprise was being chosen the King of Otaum, but it was nothing compared to the Pandora's Box of actually being the King of this coastal town in Ghana.
Prior to her life as a king, Peggy was a secretary in Ghana's Washington Embassy. Born in Ghana, she received a US education, bought a condo in Silver Spring and led a private and peaceful life. Her uncle was king of this village and when he died, the elders chose his American niece to succeed him. It took a while to decide, but once she did, Peggy jumped in with all her heart.
Through King Peggy's experience, you can see how the African people suffer from corruption. As King Peggy clearly observes how the "Elders" taking the taxes for their own use has the direct result of depriving the people of education, sanitation and even an ambulance. She couldn't just "fire" these elders, nor could she perform their functions. She had to judge who she could trust and follow her instincts... no one could ever "prepare' for such a job. Making changes took inner qualities of patience, diplomacy and wisdom.
I chose this from the Amazon Vine program because it seemed so interesting - and it was. The only disappointment was that there were no photos in the review copy. Hopefully the book when the actual printing appears will have photos of the palace, the stools, the funeral, Peggy and the town in general.
There will be a lot more to do in this town, but King Peggy clearly has the determination to make it happen. I salute her and the Shiloh Baptist Church! Thank you to Eleanor Herman who had the foresight to put this story to print.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
King Peggy is a wonderful story about an exceptional person. I would love to read another version of it. I will out myself right from the start -- I am not a lover of long-winded, chatty, romance-type prose. The book is exceedingly chatty and often sounds like fiction instead of nonfiction. It does not get down to the business at hand, but pontificates, surmises and gushes over every little thing.
Here's a sample: "The electricity had gone off about an hour earlier, and Peggy wondered how long Cousin Comfort's starched robes and head wrap edged with gold lace would stay crisp, how long her black wig would remain perfectly coiffed, how long her rouge would stay perched on her wide mahogany cheekbones before it slowly glided downward and landed somewhere between her jaw and her chin. It was because of the melting effect the heat had on makeup that Peggy rarely wore foundation or rouge . . . As the elders discussed the ceremony before the council of chiefs, Peggy looked around the table at them, the sweat running down their cheeks in streams. It occurred to her that all of them were, in fact, human muffins in an oven, rising, swelling with the heat. At what point would they go off -- bang! -- and they would be taken out to cool down?"
In fiction, I might be more supportive of a writer getting inside the head of a character, but in a book that is factual, it did not work for me. I fould it distracting and off-putting.
But you can judge for yourself. If you enjoyed reading the above excerpt, please do buy the book and enjoy some more.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The adjective that best describes this magnificent book, as well as the author and title character, is REGAL!
There are almost countless things that I could cite to explain why I found this story more than just entertaining, amusing and stimulating, although it was certainly all of these things. To begin with, I think it is a tour de force of brilliant writing. The choice to present it in third person is incredibly wise, because it lets Peggy's story be told without the arrogance, perhaps even hubris, which comes across in so many first-person narratives. Although Eleanor Herman as co-author does not intrude on the story at all, likewise a wise choice, I suspect it is her brilliant observational and narrative skills that bring the story to life in such vivid terms.
Additionally, the story of King Peggy's incredible achievements in her home town of Otuam, given the short time-frame of the events, is enough to leave the reader both breathless and amazed. To say that this is current and timely is indeed a masterpiece of understatement. Although I personally have never traveled to Africa, my husband is a frequent visitor to the Dominican Republic; having accompanied him there on a couple of his trips, I found a great deal to relate to in terms of the conditions King Peggy encountered. There, too, the government turns off the electricity frequently, roads are incredibly bad in many areas, and corruption is rampant. However, the family feeling, general concern that people have for the well-being and education of their children, and desire to improve the community is similarly evident.
Profoundly, I hope that this story assists in the endeavor King Peggy has so courageously launched of improving the lives of her own people, as well as forwarding the entire endeavor of continuing to form bonds of love and compassion between people in Africa and America. I sincerely hope it becomes the best seller it deserves to be, because I know that this will greatly enhance the efforts the author has so selflessly undertaken.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I loved *King Peggy.* I really did. This memoir begins with an uninterpretable dream and unfolds into a very real life. Peggy is a secretary at the Ghanian Embassy in Washington, DC, who has a reputation for Standing Up; she just bought a condo, and drives a 1992 Honda. She sounds like a hundred other career women I could name. BUT Peggy is from Ghana and her Honda is imbued with a possibly ages-old opinionated spirit of an ancestor -- which frankly answers a lot of questions about my '94 Ford Taurus. One day, she gets a call that she's been selected to be King of her small home village back in Ghana. Yes. It gets *better.* The former king is still languishing in the 'fridge at the morgue, and the new king is expected to pay for a suitable funeral out of her own pocket -- all on a secretary's salary. Then, there's this slight problem called "corruption." And all those aunties and cousins and a weak husband who ran away home to contend with. And then there's the matter of Peggy's Soul. (The Soul is a pure young girl who sits in front of King Peggy in public to deflect evil spirits.)
Peggy herself approaches her role as King with both dignity and strength. At one point, she is forced to stand up to her naughty bad council members and declare that she's a Woman King with the proper body parts to get the job done. I adore this woman. She proves the adage that the boss's secretary is *really* the one who runs the company -- or the kingdom. She accepts the limitations of a city -- no working water, no phone in the police chief's office -- and her own with equal aplomb. She embraces a world of spirits and dreams and lives in a reality that is Ghana. And King Peggy shows these things in unfoldings. *King Peggy*'s voice is deeply entwined in the *oral* storytelling tradition; and it reads well aloud. She draws one in and charms even when she's talking about the worst conditions, because above all, Peggy the woman wants us to *care* about Africa and *care* about Ghana. That's rare. King Peggy is a king with Heart. She's also a king with Honor. She *wants* to take care of her people and improve their lives -- and that's exactly what she does in small and amazing ways. She proves she's *really* King. Her reign is one of dreams and inspirations. I sincerely hope that this woman continues to use her powers for Good.
Okay, so I loved this memoir, in no small part that a book about about a secretary "who would be King" has been a long time coming. I literally couldn't put it down. And as I read, I came to if not love to *appreciate* Peggy's Otuam. Above all, I want to convey the delight *King Peggy* brought me, when I really needed it. It's one I'll read again when summer comes, so I can escape the ever-present possibility of wildfire on the Mountain. It's *that* good!
*King Peggy* a gift.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
And this book is delightful, sobering, inspirational and charming -- in the way it not only chronicles Peggielene Bartels' rise to power as the King of her village in Ghana, but the way she wrestles with her decision, the way her mind is made up by a sacred encounter or two with a very wise ancestor on Peggy's way to work. and the way she works her reigning magic and influence on her beloved townspeople of her village.
Peggielene Bartels balances two worlds, which are actually worlds apart -- the world of the executive seceretary in Washington DC, and also the world of spirits, ancestors, tribal councils, and the strong women and men, who people her life and her village. To be a king AND a woman are two challenges that Peggielene Bartels grows into and grows with -- earning the respect and sometimes shock (all to the good!!) of her people. Her joys are many and so are her dilemmas. And the way she overcomes obstacles and grows in the process of doing so, (and her village thrives and grows in the process) are worthy of a second or even third reading of this book.
I have nothing but admiration for Peggielene Bartels -- her book, her life is an inspiration to many.