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.