Miller’s Valley: A Novel. Anna Quindlen. Random House Publishing Group. April 2016. 272 pp. ISBN#: 9780812996081.
Anna Quindlen is back in her best form! Roosevelt’s Dam is threatening to flood Miller’s Valley. Speculators want to fix the situation but in the process they want to develop the area by building new homes and displacing residents who have lived here for generations. Mimi’s family is determined not to sell but the pressure is intense. However, the physical threat to Miller’s Valley is epitomized in the troubles within Mimi’s own family. The story is narrated from an older woman, Mimi’s point of view but starts when she was only ten years old. This is one spunky young girl who handles each difficulty with wise thinking and phenomenal endurance for one so young.
Mimi’s Dad stands by her through thick and thin but that changes after he has a debilitating stroke. Her Mom favors one of the two brothers, one of whom marries and moves away and the other who is torn apart after serving in the military in the mid-60s. Mimi’s Aunt Ruth has become a recluse. In spite of all these problems, this story is told with a very real, human attitude that never falters, that never overwhelms the characters or readers. No, the decisions aren’t always perfect but there are no perfect lives, which is why these characters move us so deeply.
The story continues as Mimi sets about to do research once she reaches high school on the dam and what it really means for Miller’s Valley to accept the proposed changes by strangers who are seeking to recreate their home territory. To say more would spoil a lovely story. Even LaRhonda, Mimi’s supposed best friend, is very real in her selfishness and more.
Much like readers’ lives, these characters with their mixed motives and actions evolve from confusion to clarity, from distance to unquestionable loyalty. Anna Quindlen is gifted in capturing and depicting the essence of people’s lives that really matter and this novel is another expression of that reality. In spite of its wrap-it-up ending, this story is definitely a memorable read that this reviewer highly recommends.
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