Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Miller's Valley - Place Your Requests Now

I can probably attribute my enjoyment and daily reading of the "New York Times" to the author Anna Quindlen. Her column, Public and Private, which won a Pulitzer prize back in 1992 for Commentary was one of the first that I'd ever read. I've been faithfully reading her fiction and non-fiction ever since.

<h2>Miller's Valley</h2>

So I was delighted when the publisher offered me a sneak peek at her new novel, "Miller's Valley," which will be out the first week of April. You're in for a treat. This is one of those books that sneaks up on you. Just when you might be saying, "mmmm-it's a little slow," you turn the page and you're totally involved. I read it in two sittings.

For those of us who grew up in any small town during the '60's, there are so many observations and ah ha moments to savor. In this case, we're in central Pennsylvania, and our narrator, Mimi Miller, a hoot at twelve, grows into a thoughtful, reliable young woman, one you'll enjoy spending time with.

Mimi's father's family has worked the farm in Miller's Valley for generations, but profitability seems to be further and further out of reach. Weather patterns are changing, the valley floods more frequently, and shadowy government employees drive from house to house offering buyouts that seem too good to be true.

But Bud Miller will never cave in or sell out, in spite of the fact that his wife, a nurse, is supporting them all, even her younger sister Ruth, a woman whose debilitating agoraphobia renders her incapable of helping with even the smallest tasks. Their oldest son Ed is off to college with no thought of returning, and the younger boy, Tom, took a very dark turn after his stretch in Vietnam.

Quindlen has always excelled at mining family dynamics and the Millers are a psychologist's dream. What from the outside appears to be a Norman Rockwell life, is laden with secrets, resentments, and unspoken disappointments that run deep. The woman's movement may be far from this valley but Bud Miller's wife is not going to allow her precocious daughter with an aptitude for science and math, to follow her friends into a hasty marriage or take over the care and feeding of the cows. She will use her considerable tenacity to ensure that Mimi doesn't stay down on the farm.

This honest and very recognizable story of families struggling to hold onto love when challenged by fate, illness, and time, is a deeply satisfying read that builds slowly, nestling in your heart, where all good books live. Better place your hold requests soon.

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