Sunday, January 8, 2017

Miller's Valley

by Anna Quindlen
Dec 26, 2016-Jan 8, 2017

I never read the book jacket before I start a new novel. I like to form my own opinions and wait until I'm finished with the book. After finishing Miller's Valley this morning and reading the synopsis only one word comes to mind: gratuitous. Wow, does that description make this book sound way better than it is. Reviews have called it "quiet" but in my opinion quiet translates to "boring."

I mean, how is eminent domain an interesting topic? Especially when it's mentioned throughout but never really explored thoroughly. It takes 20 years for it to come to fruition, but by that time, it just didn't matter. I am just now finding out that "drowned towns" are actually a thing, but a little back story at the beginning would have been helpful in adding interest. Otherwise, I kept wondering, who cares?

My main takeaway is that these shallowly-drawn characters deserved better. Quindlen is better than that. It was like looking through a dirty window into their lives only to get a little bit, but not quite enough. Why wasn't the idea of Ruth being a shut-in explored more? Oh wait, the big reveal comes in the last five percent of the book when it's really too little, too late. Mimi's friends are all total jerks yet she doesn't see it. Again, quiet = boring. The subjects introduced throughout deserved so much more time and attention than they were given.

It's astonishing how many four- and five-star reader reviews are out there. I am clearly in the minority. I just think this book dabbled in too many subjects, trying to tackle all the major coming-of-age ones, when it would have been better off focusing on a few of the more interesting topics. I loved Quindlen's earlier novels, but I've really been disappointed of late.

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