MILLER’S VALLEY by Anna Quindlen, is an extremely quick read. You can easily breeze through it in a day. It may be quick, but it is deep as can be.
The prologue sets the tone for this important novel filled with environmental issues, loss, love, loyalty, passion, and the meaning of family.
The novel begins the summer Mimi Miller is eleven years old. She’s listening to her parents talking privately. She can hear everything through the heating vent in her room. So she becomes quite in tune with what’s going on. She lives in the farmhouse her family has owned for two hundred years. Her mom is a nurse, while dad farms some and is the town’s Mr. Fix It. Two brothers also share the adobe. Eddie is bookish and Tommy is trouble. Then there is Aunt Ruth. Oh, yes, Aunt Ruth. The aunt who lives in the small house behind the farm. The aunt who NEVER leaves her house. EVER.
Anna Quindlen is a brilliant author. One who delves into characters so deeply you think they are part of your own family. She brings Mimi and her family right smack up into your face. The small valley Mimi grows up in reminds me of the small town in Delaware where I grew up. Everyone knows everyone. There are more busybodies than you can shake a stick at. And they all have their opinions. Then there’s the reality of the teenage years; all the angst of growing up. We think we’re so smart as teens. Quindlen has outdone herself showing us what it’s like to be a teenager in a small town in the sixties. I grew up in this time. She has nailed it!
Mimi is smarter than either of her brothers. And, thankfully, a teacher sees this and acts on it to help her get what she needs to move on. But Tommy is not so lucky. He goes off to Viet Nam and returns only a shell of his old self, like so many others like him. Once again, I saw this happen to so many.
The subject of friendship is focused on as Mimi finds who are her real friends. Inevitably, she falls into the hands of a boyfriend, someone older with charisma oozing from each pore. But is he the one? Sex is such a powerful tool when you are growing up. So often it shadows everything else in life. I love the way Quindlen shows how we often mistake sex for love. Back in the day it pushed many couples into marriages they were not really ready for. And changed lives accordingly, forever.
When Mimi is doing research for school she comes across extremely sensitive information about the government and the dam. This hangs over the story giving us the sense of impending doom. We know what is coming, but we do not know when.
Ruth and Mimi’s mother’s story is rife with undertones of dislike and disrespect. I found myself dying to know what that story was. We do not find out until the bitter end: it’s a real shocker!
This book is very close to what I call an OMG! book. I really enjoyed the journey of reading it. Put this one on your list for this summer. Your book club is going to love it next season:)
Random House Publishing April, 2016