"Miller's Valley" is not my usual fare when it comes to reading. Marilyn read it and loved it, and a positive review in the Post-Gazette a few weeks back, plus the fact that I have always been a fan of Ann Quindlen's essays and non-fiction, prompted me to give it a shot, and I am glad that I did.
The story is narrated by Mary Margaret "Mimi" Miller, as she tells the story of her growing up in the central Pennsylvania town of Miller's Valley, a farming community in a low lying area that is prone to flooding when the rains become especially heavy. It is the state's plan to buy all of the property in the valley, or seize it via eminent domain, flood the area and create a reservoir, that will control floods, create a new community that would be centered around the recreational opportunities that will be created by the reservoir.
The story begins in the mid-1960's and follows the story of how Mimi and her family deal with the travails that life randomly throws at people as they journey through life. Her brother goes to Viet Nam and comes back changed, her father encounters health issues that causes Mimi to change her college plans, she has an aunt that live on their property, but never leaves her house, her mother is the connective tissue that somehow holds the family together, Mimi falls in love, deals with snobby friends, and falls in love again. Mimi starts as an awkward, unsure adolescent, and becomes, well, you need to read the book to see how she grows and develops into the person who ends up telling the story of Miller's Valley and its inhabitants.
Sounds like a pure "chick-lit" book that my wife thought I wouldn't like, but I did, mainly because Quindlen is such a terrific writer. About halfway through, I started highlighting passages throughout the book because they just struck such a chord with me. For example:
I looked around and it was like I was seeing everything frozen into a still photograph, like I was seeing my whole life but in one of those shots you look at later and think, Yeah, that's what it was like, once upon a time. Once upon a long tome ago.
Or this one...
When I got older I realized that the majority of people in Miller's Valley were the most discontented kind of Americans, working people whose situations hadn't risen or fallen over generations, but who still carried a little bit of those streets-paved-with-gold illusions and so were always annoyed that the streets were paved with tar, if they were paved at all.
I could go on, but you get the idea. There is just nothing like damned good writing, and this is what Anna Quindlen delivers in this really, really good story.
Four stars from The Grandstander for "Miller's Valley".