Posts Tagged ‘Miller’s Valley’

millvalleyWhen she’s 11 and selling corn from a roadside stand, Mimi Miller knows her place in the world — the same small farm in Pennsylvania her family’s owned for 200 years. The flood-prone area is even known as Miller’s Valley. But only a few years later, Mimi already is missing the girl she used to be. “Getting older wasn’t working out so well for me.” Her best friend Donald has moved away, and so has her oldest brother, Edward. Her other brother, charming Tommy, has joined the Marines, gotten a local girl in trouble, been sent to Vietnam, gotten into drugs. Rumors that the government is going to flood the valley under a water-management plan are firming into facts. The ground even feels soggier. Mimi’s father lives in a state of denial and keeps the sump pumps running. Her mother refuses to get involved. “Let the water cover the whole damn place,” she says. About the only thing that hasn’t changed is that Aunt Ruth, her mother’s sister, still  refuses to leave the small house at the back of the Millers, even when floodwaters send her to the attic.

Anna Quindlen’s emotionally resonant new novel, Miller’s Valley (Random House, digital galley), is a coming-of-age novel distinguished by the intimate voice of narrator Mimi and a specificity of detail and image. The fog can lie “as thick as cotton candy” on the valley floor, a neighbor woman is remembered for “her lavender smell and warm pies.” When Tommy comes home, he has “a tough little barking laugh. . . a mean second cousin to a real laugh.” But Tommy also warns Mimi not to get sidetracked by her boyfriend, an older construction worker with whom she’s in love and lust. Tommy wants Mimi to concentrate on getting out of Miller’s Valley. “Don’t get stuck.” Mimi’s good grades and a college scholarship are going to be her way out, until a family crisis throws up a roadblock.

Families, friends, first loves, old secrets. Quindlen’s story flows like the rising river, moving faster as it nears the end. A mystery surfaces unexpectedly, and Mimi must decide whether to pursue it or to let it go, even as she tries to find traction on the slippery slope of change, at home in a world both familiar and strange.


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