Journalist and author Anna Quindlen explores life in the 1960s in a small Pennsylvania town in her newest novel “Miller’s Valley.” Miller’s Valley is indeed a valley and the Miller homestead is at the very bottom which means that it is prone to flooding. The residents of the area are being pressured by the government to sell out so that the nearby streams and reservoir can be channeled to permanently flood the area to be used as a recreational lake.
The Miller family has deep roots in the valley. The family has been there for more than one hundred years. No one is in favor of selling to the government least of all Mary Margaret Miller, who is ten when the story begins. In addition to Mary Margaret, known as Mimi, the family consists of Bud, her dad, Miriam, her mom, her two brothers Tommy and Ed and her aunt Ruth.
Mimi, the narrator of the story, is an intelligent, keen observer of life in Miller’s Valley. Quindlen has endowed her character with a strong voice that brings to the reader the joy, pain and sorrows of the Miller family. As readers we experience the sorrow Mimi feels when her brother Tommy returns from Vietnam and can’t find his way. We recognize the loyalty she feels toward her reclusive Aunt Ruthand her love for her mother and father.
We follow Mimi through her life as she struggles with enormous decisions. What seem to be events that will not allow her to grow beyond Miller’s Valley are turned around. Secrets are discovered and kept. As a reader, I kept rooting for her hoping that she would not be defeated by life’s unfairness.
Anna Quindlen has written a poignant story of family life. She captures her readers’ attention from the first to the last page with characters and prose that make this a powerful novel.