Wednesday, April 13, 2016

(35)Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen



The Miller family has lived in Miller's Valley for many generations.  Mimi Miller is the youngest child, and only daughter, of the current generation of Miller's living on the family farm that has been passed down from generation to generation.    As Mimi grows up she shares her observations of a family clinging to tradition in the way that only the young can do.  Her mother was a nurse and her father was a farmer that did odd jobs to help keep the family afloat.  Mimi's two brothers were considerably older and therefor not really her peers, but she knew they were her brothers no matter what happened.  Ed was grown and gone before Mimi was even old enough to realize big brothers should be role models and Tom shocked the family when he enlisted in the Marines.  The time he spent in Vietnam changed him and damaged him in ways that none of them can understand.  Also living on the family farm is Mimi's Aunt Ruth, a quirky woman who won't leave the safety of her little house for nothing, not even when Mimi's father had a stroke practically in front of her.    For all of the strange dynamics of the Miller family there is one thing that remains true - family is everything.   Despite disappointments, painful truths, and evolving political climates, family is everything.  That is proven time and time again and even more as the family struggles to hold on to the land that has sustained decades of Millers.

Miller's Valley is told in that slow and steady way that makes you feel as if you are sitting on the sidelines of Mimi's life.  The book is set in a bygone era that leaves the reader a bit nostalgic as they long for their Miller's Valley in their life.    Mimi is a reliable character if there ever was one and she is quite easy to like.  She is hard-working and loyal to a fault.  Even when she struggles to understand the people she is supposed to love no matter what. Even though Mimi's brothers have gone off in the world, Mimi knows that they will always find their way home.  Her family have been around the area for so long that the town is actually named after them.  That kind of legacy is hard to ignore and also hard live down in a small town.  The whole small agricultural town reminded me a lot of my own hometown and this line struck such a chord with me - "But no one ever leaves the town where they grew up, not really, not even if they go."  It is very safe for me to say that "home" is very much a part of me and I left "home" twenty years ago.   We do get to watch Mimi grow up and we get to watch her deal with grown-up subjects like abortion, PTSD, and taking care of her family when they can't care for themselves.  Because that is what family does.

Bottom line - Miller's Valley is a beautiful book that draws much power from the simplicity of the story.  There is much here to be discussed, especially if you grew up in a small, rural community.  You will easily draw parallels and it will leave you longing for the home that will always hold your heart.

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