|By Anna Quindlen
April 5, 2016
Mary Margaret (Mimi) Miller is a baby boomer growing up in a community where her family has lived and farmed for generations. Her father is also a “fix-it man,” and her mother is a nurse. The valley floods regularly, and its residents are being pressured by a government agent to sell their property so the valley can be flooded to enlarge a reservoir and create a recreation area.
“Miller’s Valley,” Anna Quindlen’s eighth novel, probes the meaning of family and home. Mimi’s mother is resigned to the inevitable triumph of “progress” — her father can’t imagine living anywhere else. Her aunt is agoraphobic, housebound in a second house on the same property. Her oldest brother is a successful engineer, and her other brother is a handsome but aimless charmer who becomes profoundly self-destructive when he returns from Vietnam. Mimi’s relationship with each is unique.
A stellar student who is fiercely loyal to the family she feels needs her, Mimi is reluctant to leave home for college. When a scholarship seems to fall in her lap, her mother insists she embrace the opportunity. “You’re going. You’re going away in September. I don’t want to hear any arguments, Mary Margaret. You’re going.” Serenely and without a lot of drama, Mimi spends the rest of her life finding the balance between the familiar and the unfamiliar, personal fulfillment and family responsibility.
Readers of earlier Quindlen novels will recognize her distinctive ability to explore complex family relationships as she looks at attachment to place and what constitutes home. CV
Sally Wisdom retired from the Des Moines Public Library in 2011 and found her dream job at Beaverdale Books soon after.