Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Miller’s Valley



Maggie Gust

“There is nothing I value more than the closeness of friends and family, a smile as I pass someone on the street.” 
Willie Stargell

I enjoyed this book. Mary Margaret Miller narrates her story which is centered around the state’s decision to permanently flood the farmland of Miller’s Valley. During the time since the government built a dam and redirected the river, the valley was flooding every few years anyway. Every flood would drive a few more families away, those who were not willing or not able to rebuild and wait for the next flood.

Mary Margaret, known as Mimi to her family and friends, has two older brothers, Eddie and Tommy. Eddie is a scholar and very mature and responsible person while Tommy struggles with life. Mimi is very close to her father Buddy, a farmer who also works as a fix-it man to bring in extra money. He can mend anything. People just drop their broken items off at his workshop on the farm with a note such as “Making whoosh sound” if he were out in the fields. Mom Miriam is an RN who works the evening shift at the hospital. It is her income which keeps the family going. She is a solid, no-nonsense person with a very good instinct for judging human character. Aunt Ruth, Miriam’s younger sister, lives in the cottage in the back of the Miller home and never leaves it. Mimi takes her dinner meal to her, Miriam does her shopping and delivers Ruth’s groceries to her cottage.

Mimi’s best friend LaRhonda is the only child of the owner of a successful diner in town. She is spoiled and pampered as well as willful. But Mimi feels she is her best friend. Her sleepovers at LaRhonda’s are a welcome diversion from her own pragmatic existence. LaRhonda’s bedroom is fit for a princess.

Ms. Quindlen has created an interesting cast of characters in this story. They are so well written that I occasionally felt I was eavesdropping on their lives. The dynamics of Miller family life are very relatable, as are the dynamics of the friendship between LaRhonda and Mimi. We see how all these people develop over the years. In my opinion the author does a particularly excellent job with the girls’ friendship, Mimi’s interaction with her mother and with her siblings, particularly Tommy.

I put this book down once for a short while. From about chapter 3, I was vested in these characters, particularly Mimi and Buddy. I learned to love some of the others later. Likely the reader will feel they have the story figured out because we all know that when the state decides to change the topography of an area, it will happen no matter how hard the residents resist. The reader can almost see the shadow of the boom that will inevitably be lowered. But, Mimi’s life takes a couple of surprising turns and at the end, when she is cleaning out Aunt Ruth’s cottage and her own family home for the last time, Ruth drops a bombshell from the grave so to speak.

An interesting exploration of family and its inherent power struggles, as well as those of friendship and community. Also, just a plain good read. This is not an action story or a thriller but I found it riveting. Ms. Quindlen packed a lot of story into this less-than-300-pages novel.

This review is based on an advanced review copy from Random House via NetGalley given in exchange for an honest review.

Happy Passover! Happy Mother’s Day!

Maggie Gust has been an avid reader all her life. Her past includes working as a teacher, as well as various occupations in the healthcare field. She shares a hometown, Springfield, Illinois, with Abraham Lincoln, but Florida has been her home since 1993. Genealogy, reading, movies and writing are among her favorite activities. She is self-employed and works from her Naples home.  Contact her at winetaster13@gmail.com or maggiesbookinblog.com.  

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