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Unlikely Angel Book Review

Updated: Dec 14, 2020


I want to be known as a great writer—now that’s a dream of mine. I like to describe my writing as being simply complicated. It’s got enough depth to be appreciated and enough simplicity to be understood. –Dolly Parton

Unlikely Angel: The Songs of Dolly Parton is part biography, part musicology, and part American history, but mostly Unlikely Angel is an exuberant appreciation of Dolly Parton and her work. Lydia Hamessley has delved deeply into Dolly’s lyrics and music, her songwriting process, her Appalachian background, and her career successes and mistakes. There is detailed analysis in this book for readers who want to dive into the music. The book quotes extensively from Dolly herself, members of her family, previous biographers, and musicians who have worked with her over the years. But you don’t have to be a musician or a musicologist to enjoy it—the book is purely a good read. Hamessley writes with an intimate understanding of the real, live person as well as an intelligent ability to interpret the work and educate the reader.

Dolly Parton looks like a stereotype and she cultivates that image carefully. But behind that larger-than-life ditzy blonde act—in her songs—one finds the true expression of her intelligence, her ideals, her roots, and her talent. This book will help the reader get to know the true Dolly behind the stereotype by showing the work Dolly is most proud of. G. Hundt