Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen

9780812996081_8119b.jpgMiller’s Valley is set to be published on April 5, 2016.

I’ve always been a big fan of whatever Anna Quindlen writes, one of my favorites is Black and Blue. Quindlen has a knack for making the reader feel like they are really submersed in the story and in the life of the family being portrayed. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this story, but I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

This is the story of Mary Margaret Miller, who goes by Mimi. It’s a coming of age story, in which the reader watches Mimi grow up and move on with life over and over again, despite some road blocks along the way. The largest of which being the fact that the government plans to flood the valley in order to build a dam, like they did to the neighboring town of Andover a few years back. Along with the day to day stress of family life in a rural farming community is the constant impending doom of when their home and life as they know it be flooded out from under them.

Mimi is not the type to cause any trouble within her family, because there are plenty of others doing that for her. Her older brother, Tommy, also her mother’s pride and joy, is and always will be a playboy, in and out of trouble for as long as Mimi can remember. Mimi grew up on the farm, one of the last remaining Millers of Miller’s Valley, where her family before her has lived for generations. Her father is a farmer and fix-it man, while her mother is a nurse at the local hospital. Mimi’s aunt Ruth lives in the little house just behind her parents house, and she has refused to leave the house for years. Mimi goes through school getting good grades and attempts to leave Miller’s Valley, things keep happening with her brother Tommy, father, aunt Ruth, or mother to hold her back.

My favorite part of this book are the deep relationships between Mimi and the other characters. Mimi narrates the story, so the reader gets to know how she thinks and recognizes all the times where she holds back what she really feels led to say or do, because she is appeasing someone else or keeping the peace, or what little is left of it. Her childhood relationships with friends, Donald and LaRhonda, sibling relationships with Ed and Tommy, and even the parent-child relationships with her father and mother are interesting and keep the reader’s attention. Will Mimi end up like her aunt Ruth, refusing to leave her home or Miller’s Valley? Or will she finally do what Tommy encouraged her to do, get out of Miller’s Valley while she can, in order to make a life for herself? You’ll want to read it to find out. Great story. I especially loved the ending, where Mimi as an old woman looks back on her life and really puts everything in perspective.

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Noah’s Wife by Lindsay Starck

This is a novel with creatively thought out connections to the story of Noah’s Ark, only the main focus of the novel is Noah’s wife. The reader never uncovers her given name, as she is always referred to by others and even by herself as she is narrating as only “Noah’s wife.” Her identity is based upon being a part of her husband’s goals and plans, which is why she agrees to move with him to a very small town in the hills where the rains have been falling nonstop for months and months. The town was built around a zoo which used to be a main attraction to tourists and townspeople for years. Noah is to be the minister at a church where none of the townspeople, save the organist Leesl, will go, perhaps in part because the previous minister walked into the river. As Noah tries to rebuild/repair the church, and break through to the townspeople, he wears himself down to nothing mentally and spiritually. However, Noah’s wife stands strong and may end up saving them all. I loved the way the author captured different characters in the novel, from the Italian storekeeper Mauro to the burly zookeeper with a heart of gold, Adam. The reader is given more and more details about Noah’s wife as different characters become narrators and give their perceptions of her.  It is also very neat to read about how the townspeople come together with one goal and purpose, saving the animals, when the zoo floods. What a wonderful story. The writing is beautiful and fluid. I would highly suggest this first novel from Lindsay Starck.