Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen


Miller's Valley
by Anna Quindlen
Random House, 2016
272 pages
source: publisher, via NetGalley

Publisher's summary:

For generations the Millers have lived in Miller’s Valley. Mimi Miller tells about her life with intimacy and honesty. As Mimi eavesdrops on her parents and quietly observes the people around her, she discovers more and more about the toxicity of family secrets, the dangers of gossip, the flaws of marriage, the inequalities of friendship and the risks of passion, loyalty, and love. Home, as Mimi begins to realize, can be “a place where it’s just as easy to feel lost as it is to feel content.”

Miller’s Valley is a masterly study of family, memory, loss, and, ultimately, discovery, of finding true identity and a new vision of home. As Mimi says, “No one ever leaves the town where they grew up, even if they go.” Miller’s Valley  reminds us that the place where you grew up can disappear, and the people in it too, but all will live on in your heart forever.

My thoughts:

Anna Quindlen and I go way back, probably to her 1980s New York Times columnsand I remember being pretty excited when she decided to try her hand at fiction in the 90s. Object Lessons  was one of the first selections of my fledgling book club (still in existence today) and I loved One True Thing.  But as wonderful as her fiction is, I've always felt that nonfiction is Quindlen's real strength. Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake  is an all-time favorite and the only book I've ever purchased both a hardcover and audio edition on the same day.

Still, I'm always eager to read a novel by Anna Quindlen and jumped at opportunity to review  Miller's Valley. The book was a total pleasure to read from the opening paragraph of the prologue:
It was a put-up job, and we all knew it by then. The government people had hearings all spring to solicit the views of residents on their plans. That's what they called it, soliciting views, but every last person in Miller's Valley knew that just meant standing behind the microphones set up in the aisle of the middle school, and then finding out afterward that the government people would do what they planned to do anyhow. Everybody was just going through the motions. That's what people do. They decide what they want and then try to make you believe you want it, too.
... to the final sentences of the epilogue.

Quindlen's story-telling skills are mesmerizing and, as always, the writing is top-notch. Her main character, Mimi Miller, is likable, intelligent, and insightful. Add in a rich a cast of supporting characters (a case could even be made for including the rural Pennsylvania landscape here), a couple of long-buried family secrets, and a central environmental issue, and you've got one heck of a novel.

Miller's Valley, in my opinion, is a completely satisfying novel and Quindlen's best in twenty years. Don't miss it!

My rating:

28 comments:

  1. Someone else I haven't read! (except for some of those columns...) Will work on that. )

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    1. Audrey - This book would be a great place to start. If you're in the mood for nonfiction, I loved the audio of Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. Quindlen reads it herself.

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  2. I have never read this author, but I love everything about this post - the book cover, the synopsis (has that small town feel), and the review.

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    1. Kathy _ Anna Quindlen has been a favorite for a long time. I even had the pleasure of meeting her a couple of years ago at an event at Random House in NYC!

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  3. Somehow I don't think I've ever read any of Quindlen's books but I really enjoyed reading about your history with her. This sounds like a good read and maybe a good first book. You've also got me very intrigued about her nonfiction!

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    1. Katherine - If you're in the mood for fiction, this is a great place to start!

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  4. I had to fight back being too gushy with my review - but then it deserves it!

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  5. Lovely lovely thoughts. I felt the same way!

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  6. Great review.

    I am coming to like thoughtful books about characters and life more and more. Thus, this sounds very appealing.

    I really like the writing in the passage that you posted.

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    1. Brian Joseph - Thank you. This is classic Quindlen... a combination of great characters and wonderful writing.

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  7. After reading your earlier comments about this book, I requested it from NetGAlley and to my surprise was approved for it. I downloaded it yesterday!

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    1. Pat - Hooray!! I hope you love it, too :)

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  8. I have to admit that I haven't read any book by this author and struggled somewhat with the only one I gave a try. This was years ago though when my reading tastes ran along a different route. So I will have to revisit her books.

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    1. Athira - I hope you do try another one her books. Like I said, this is best in a very long time!

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  9. But I just spend a gazillion dollars at the book store!! LOL I'll give the library a try.

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    1. Debbie - LOL! I do love libraries :)

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  10. Great review JoAnn! I loved reading about your "history" with Anna Quindlen too. I didn't realize she started off as a columnist. I am looking forward to checking this one out.

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    1. Iliana - Thanks. I hope you get a chance to read Miller's Valley, but also recommend her nonfiction.

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  11. Glad to hear this one is a winner. I only recently started reading Quinlen, thanks to you, actually, and I haven't tried her fiction yet, but this one is on the list!

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    1. JaneGS - So glad you're reading Quindlen... hope you enjoy her work as much as I do. Recently found a used copy of Imagined London. Had been looking for that for a while.

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  12. I loved this book, too, and enjoy everything she writes...but I also really love her nonfiction. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Laurel-Rain Snow - Quindlen has been a favorite for such a long time. I hope she's already working on her next book!

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  13. Her best book in 20 years! That's great news. That opening paragraph is solid as a rock. Here I thought her nonfiction was her best too, but now I'm wondering. But did you ever read her dog book: Good Dog. Stay. ? Thank god for that one.

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    1. Susan - Definitely her best *novel* in 20 years... the nonfiction is always excellent. Not sure why I have never read Good Dog. Stay. Will take care of that soon!

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  14. I really enjoyed this novel, but not quite as much as Every Last One. When I got to the epilogue, though, I bumped up my rating. I think it was the best part of the book! Maybe I just liked the older Mimi or could relate to her a bit more. I still have Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake and don't know why I haven't read it yet! It's been on my shelf for a few years now. This summer, for sure!!

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    1. Les - I agree, the epilogue was so good! I liked Every Last One more than Still Life With Breadcrumbs, but this book was truly a pleasure to read. Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake is a favorite I could read over and over again.

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