On a hot August night in 2008, Peggielene Bartels was startled awake by a long-distance call. It was her cousin in Ghana with incredible news: Peggy’s uncle Joseph, king of a beautiful village on the west coast of Africa, had died, and sacred rituals revealed Peggy to be the next king of Otuam. Thinking it was a joke, she almost hung up. How could a secretary in Washington, D.C., an American citizen, be an African king? Not to mention that she was a woman. But it was true, and, in an instant, Peggy’s life was forever changed.
King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village chronicles Peggy’s astonishing adventures as king of a town half a world away. Upon arriving in Otuam for her crowning ceremony, she discovers the reality behind the fairy tale: the town has no running water, no doctor, and no high school; the king’s palace is in ruins, and the town coffers are empty. Peggy’s determination to change all this sets her on a collision course with Otuam’s stubborn male elders, who are unaccustomed to heeding any woman. Yet she finds unexpected allies: her confidante, Cousin Comfort; the sober and reliable contractor, Nana Kwesi, who helps rebuild the palace; and a fisherwoman as strong as Peggy herself. Peggy opens Otuam’s first bank account and finds sponsors so the town’s children can attend school. But she also begins to wonder if there is something rotten in the state of Otuam. The late king, it seems, died of fright; his children are conspiring to sabotage his funeral; and suddenly Peggy does not know whom to trust.
“King Peggy is not just a great read for book lovers,” says Andrea Lewis, One Maryland One Book Coordinator. “It’s also an inspiring example for anyone on the impact of one determined individual. Many long to find their calling. In becoming king, Peggielene Bartels shines a light on the power of conviction and its ability to transform.”
Lewis and her colleagues at the Maryland Humanities Council are pleased with the enthusiasm shown across the state each year for the One Maryland One Book selection. “People love feeling part of a community,” she explains. “Having so many people reading the same book at the same time offers another point of connection.”
Previous One Maryland One Book Selections
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Outcasts United by Warren St. John
Song Yet Sung by James McBride
A Hope in the Unseen by Ron Suskind