Anna Quindlen * Random House * April 5, 2016 * 272 Pages
The Miller family has lived in Miller’s Valley for generations. They have worked hard and endured and made the best of what they had. And though they are kind and friendly in their way, the years have also hardened them. Mimi Miller is a little girl when we first meet her, already keenly insightful and almost too observant for her own good. Like most of the people living in Miller’s Valley, Mimi’s life doesn’t give her much of a break, and over the course of the novel, we watch her grow up fast, as tough circumstances force her to take on a lot of responsibility at once. While other people seem to crack under the pressure, adversity only makes Mimi stronger and more determined to do something different, something better, with her life.
I loved reading this book. It’s short, yes, and subdued, sure. But there is so much heart in here. The characters are wonderful–and not just Mimi. Her resilient mother, her endearing father, her quirky aunt, and her self-sabotaging brother, all interact together flawlessly. I felt tied to them, like I knew them. The mystery of what would happen to the valley kept me quickly flipping pages, but the substance of these characters forced me to slow down so I could savor the story and its players more completely.
I will acknowledge that Quindlen may have ended the book just a touch too neatly. She certainly wraps up all loose ends in a very clean and overwhelmingly positive way. (This is definitely NOT Every Last One…) But, truthfully, I really didn’t mind. The more I thought about this ending–and I thought about it a lot–the more I appreciated seeing the perspective of an older woman looking back–considering her life, acknowledging the good stuff, mourning the bad, and then, ultimately, accepting and appreciating it for what it was. For me, Miller’s Valley is a very satisfying and complete story. Maybe not everyone will see it that way, but, wow, I enjoyed every second I spent reading this book.