Cover Image: Miller's Valley

Miller's Valley

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I was disappointed by this book. I typically love Quindlen's writing but this story was pedantic and did not hold my interest. A perfectly capable novel but not one of her best.
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This was an enjoyable read and I would recommend it. thanks for letting me have an advance copy. I'm new to this author.
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Margaret Mary Miller lives in Miller’s Valley on the family farm. The government wants to open he nearby dam and flood the valley.  They’ve offered money to those living in the area but most want to stay.  Mary Margaret’s family life is complicated. Her mother is a nurse. Her father farms and is also a handyman. Her oldest brother becomes an engineer and her other brother survives Vietnam but returns forever changed. Her agoraphobic aunt lives in the house behind Mary Margaret’s house. As all families do, the kids grow up and start their lives. 

As the years progress, the town suffers more and more flooding. Finally a big flood changes the hold outs minds. What effect will having the family home erased have on the Millers?  

This is a look at one woman’s life and the resilience she has throughout. There are many heartaches but each seems to strenghthen her.
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I love Anna Quindlen. This is not her best book, but it is very readable. Who wouldn't like a book about a strong, independent woman?
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I went back to my childhood and adolescence while reading this book.

And things that happened to some members of the Miller family happened in my own family.

Then there were the ways the town of Miller's Valley was changed with the passage of time and people's lives, and the feelings of nostalgia this enlivened in me for the small town I grew up with, the population of which now exceeds 20,000, (and today it's called a "city").

So, there was much to appreciate in reading Miller's Valley.
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Reading Anna Quindlen is like reading no other writer.  You take a deep breath before you begin and then jump! Her stories are one which stay with you.  (Every Last One anyone?)  In Miller’s Crossing you are invited into a stay with the Miller family where you learn their joys, loyalties and pain.  Anna Q keeps it real.
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Miller’s Valley is a lovely book, which moves through years of Mimi’s life with the same inevitability and poignancy as the eventual fate of the valley she calls home.  While the writing is as good as I expected from Quindlan it’s not a perfect book; I was a little frustrated that some of the characters weren’t fully developed and at Mimi’s passivity for so long.  However I loved reading it, the characters stayed with me, and I found myself caring deeply for a fictional valley thousands of miles from my own home - so I’m giving it 5 stars.
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This book is set in a valley that is in turmoil. Years ago, the government decided to build a dam to help stop the flooding in this area. Unfortunately, they discovered that they placed the river in the wrong place, so it didn't help at all. Now they want to relocate the people that live here so they can flood the area. Now there are roots set down and lives that are not sure what to do. 

This story is told in the honest voice of Mimi Miller. She is an observant girl and the only daughter in a family that scrapes by. By listening through the vent in her bedroom, Mimi discovers many secrets concerning her family and the valley. 

Quinlin was able to pull me in with the prologue. Then I did not want to put this book down. I felt Mimi had such a strong voice that she was sharing the secrets she learned with me. The story is a reminder of the pull that the place we grew up has on us all of our lives. 

I have a feeling that I will turn to this book several times in my life as a reminder of the lesson that I learned. 

I was given this book by NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
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In my previous ‘before-children’ life, I worked in water management. The nineties were an interesting time in Victoria in terms of water resources – we shifted from simply river management to whole-of-catchment management; the importance of environmental flows were recognised; and paying for water that was collected on private property (in farm dams) was established. The changes don’t seem like much when I list them here but they took years to implement and had major implications for rural communities, legislation, and the way natural resources were managed.

What does this have to do with Anna Quindlen’s novel, Miller’s Valley?

Everything and nothing.

Miller’s Valley is the story of the Miller family. After generations of living in the Valley, the family’s home is threatened by government plans to create a dam. The story is told from the perspective of Mimi, whose observations of her family and community members change and mature as events unfold.

Quindlen explores themes of family, memory and what constitutes a home – there’s nothing heavy-handed or obvious or particularly new in the plot however the themes are expertly integrated, creating a rich picture of what drives the Miller family, what they value and where their loyalties lie.

It’s so easy to be wrong about the things you’re close to. I know that now. I learned that then.

What I enjoyed most about this book was how water was used to drive the narrative. The presence or absence of water can bring sudden and urgent changes, but it can also brings gradual changes – the slow leak, the creep of mildew, the shifting course of a stream. As water changes in Miller’s Valley, so to do the fortunes of the family – sudden events (a death, an arrest, an abortion) are interwoven with the gradual (an aunt becomes a recluse, Mimi’s growing awareness of her academic abilities, a brother losing his way). All the while, government officials push forward with plans to flood the Valley and the family’s sump pump chugs away, keeping the slow creep of water at bay – a battle between the past and the future.

3/5 A quiet, thoughtful novel with a memorable setting.

I received my copy of Miller’s Valley from the publisher, Random House, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Mary Margaret Miller (Mimi) tells the story of her family and friends in Miller's Valley, where she was born and raised, as well as several generations of Millers. The story was interesting and an easy read. The characters are well developed and you learn about them through Mimi's eyes. Her story includes loss, love, friendship, family and the effect war has on them as Mimi goes from pre-teen to a grown woman. Unexpected twist in the end, that explains some aspects of the story. I look forwards to reading other books from Ms. Quindlen.
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Another exploration by Anna Quindlen of the meaning of life and what is important. This is a good 'woman's book' but it is not for everyone.
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Love Anna Quindlen! This one wasn't her best, but it was still a good read.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  This is the heartwarming story of a small town called Miller's Valley.  I didn't want this lovely story to end...
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What I think Quindlen does well in Miller’s Valley is her portrayal of small town living.  A town where everyone knows everyone, therefore everyone is always in everyone else’s business.  The type of town where all the children dream of growing up and moving away for fear of ending up like their parents, but in reality they all grow up and settle down in the very town they dreamt of leaving.  I love books set in small towns because not only do you get the drama of small town living, but you also get the comradery of a tight-knit community.

I enjoyed the cast of characters and the family dynamics in Miller’s Valley.   You have Bud, the father, a farmer & the local fix-it man. Miriam, the mother, a night shift nurse.  Eddie, the older brother, the overachiever.  Tommy, another brother, who is basically the family screw up, but also the favorite.  Ruth, the agoraphobic Aunt who lives in a cottage on the family farm.  Finally we have Mimi (our main character), the one that holds everything together.  Each of these characters were flawed in their own ways, but that is what made them feel realistic.  There are some wonderful family dynamics between these characters explored in Miller’s Valley: sibling relationships, parent-children relationships, extended family relationships, etc. etc.  Like the characters themselves, these relationships were flawed & imperfect, adding to the authentic feeling of the characters.

Now on to the things that did not work well for me in Miller’s Valley…

Unfortunately, this book just didn’t hold my attention like I wanted it to.  I felt like I spent a good chunk of the book wondering when something was going to start happening, and by “a good chunk” I am talking about 90% of the book.  I was very interested in the “government take over” plot with the government pressuring the inhabitants of Miller’s Valley to sell their properties so that the valley could be flooded and transformed into a dam, but this part of the plot wasn’t well developed.  I also felt the characters were not as involved with this part of the plot as they should have been.   It was almost like two separate plotlines: Mimi’s life story & the Miller’s Valley plotline, but there wasn’t much connection between the two.   Although the ending felt very rushed, it was the best part of the book because this is where the majority of the action happened… the last 10% of the book.  I did enjoy how everything panned out in the end, and enjoyed how the author left it a bit open ended, but I just wish the rest of the book was as gripping as the ending.  Unfortunately it was just a bit too late for me.

Mimi, our main character, was a struggle to connect with for multiple reasons.  For one, I often struggle with “wet blanket” characters, as I  just want to shake them out of frustration!  Which is how I felt about Mimi.  Why did she let EVERYONE take advantage of her?  Why does EVERYONE’s problems and responsibilities fall upon her shoulders?  Basically Mimi took a passive role in her own life and let everyone else dictate her actions.  Another big issue I had with her was that she was lacking emotion throughout the entire book.  There were a few emotional events that occur where I felt it was a little odd that it didn’t merit a more emotional reaction from Mimi.

Another big issue I had with the book was the timeline.  Generally, I enjoy when an author jumps around from present to past and back again, but I had a hard time following where we were in time while reading Miller’s Valley.  I often found myself confused, as the flashbacks were not clearly indicated, thus the jumps in the timeline felt jumbled instead of seamless.  It really threw off the flow of the book for me.

To sum up my feelings: As much as I wanted to love this book, it just didn’t work for me because…
• plot line did not hold my attention
• lifeless & frustrating main character
• confusing timeline

*Big thanks to Random House for providing me with a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Miller's Valley is the story of a small community facing it's end. Located in a valley, the government has plans to flood Miller's Valley as soon as it's able to convince the families residing there to relocate. The tale turns on Mimi Miller who tells the story of the town and her own upbringing. Reflecting on the growing pains of American society, the story has a resonance that I was not expecting when I picked it up.
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Life in a small town can be just as busy as a city. I want more. I want to follow up on the citizens of Miller's Valley after the end of the book. I cried, I laughed.
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I have been a fan of Anna Quindlen’s writing for a long time, back to her days as a New York Times’ columnist, once sitting outside in the hallway when she gave a talk at a nearby college, because despite standing in line for quite a while, I did not make it into the packed lecture hall. Despite her finesse and attention to telling details, I always have the feeling that her novels are closer to truth than fiction, and I felt that way reading this book in particular. I think it had more to do with the relationships between Mimi Miller and each of her parents, but of course this is me projecting my own impressions. In any case, I enjoyed reading about Miller’s Valley and it’s battle to tame the water surrounding it, especially since we spend our summers on a lake whose waters cover what was also once a town.  

I love Quindlen’s writing, but I honestly think I prefer her personal stories to any she imagines, and I’m not sure why. She brings the people in Miller’s Valley to life with clarity, depth and focus, but there is something distant about them, and I feel detached from their dramas. I would have liked to learn more about what went on between Mimi’s mother and her estranged sister, who lived on the property alongside them, but not with them. This storyline, hinted at and then startling in the end, seemed much more interesting to me than anything happening to the other characters.

There is no doubt Anna Quindlen can tell a compelling tale — and her worst attempt is just so much better than so many best efforts. So, no, this was not my favorite, but that bar is high, and reading this was still a pleasure.
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