TPK's Reviews > Possum Living: How to Live Well Without a Job and with (Almost) No Money

Possum Living by Dolly Freed
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's review
May 12, 10

Read in May, 2010

(reposted from my blog)

I first came across information about Possum Living online, actually; I stumbled across the Possum Living blog and was simply fascinated. "Dolly Freed" (not her real name) was a good writer with a distinctive, funny voice, and I was curious what she might have had to say about life without a job back in her late teens.

Turns out, she had plenty to say. Dolly's "possum living" existence -- surviving and thriving with no regular job, living on just enough money to buy absolute essentials -- is reprinted just as it was first published in 1978 (with a few judicious comments and an afterword by the author, now older and wiser). She sketches out the basics of her possum existence (raising/hunting/killing/skinning your own meat, growing your own vegetables, distilling your own alcohol, buying and fixing up houses, handling legal disputes, avoiding taxes) in detail, adding subversive and funny touches. The kicker is that you have to be willing to make, grow or forage for nearly everything you need, so it's hardly a lazy existence; I happen to like our current way of life and I'm not convinced that I should try bailing out just to see what it's like. But it's relieving to know that if you're willing to put in the effort, it's very possible to live well on little ready money.

The best entertainment value in the book, to my mind, is the afterword. Dolly has plenty to say about her young and sassy opinions, some of which she no longer espouses (especially the chapter about legal disputes, and about dealing with people who have done you wrong by clandestinely breaking their windows or slashing their tires). She also admits what the observant reader has already seen between the lines of the original text: that her father, with whom she lived during the years she wrote Possum Living, was an alcoholic who eventually lost access to his entire family because of his addiction, and who in later years became outright abusive and dangerous. At least some of what the young Dolly has written is her way of putting a brave face over a bad situation. But that, too, is part of what makes this book compelling.
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