Mary Margaret Miller is a young girl growing up on a farm in Miller's Valley, a small community in rural America in the 1960's.
There's nothing unusual about her family or her life: she has two older brothers - one's away at college, the other is a lovable rogue, her father works the farm, her mother is a nurse at the local hospital, an aunt lives in a small cottage on the farm.
The only thing that makes Miller's Valley different from thousands of similar rural hamlets is the government has plans to raise a nearby dam and flood the valley displacing the few families who live there.
This a theme that runs throughout the book looming over the lives of the Miller family though never really effecting them since there is no set timeline for the flooding.
Through the point of view of Mary Margaret the reader comes to know a loving and, more or less, functioning family, their friends and neighbours living in middle America during this period.
Quindlen is such a fine writer I was immediately drawn in. Her gift is that she makes the reader feel like they know, have known, or know someone just like her characters. Her prose is so seamless you don't realize you're reading a book - more like experiencing it.
Unlike some of Quindlen's work that can leave you with PTSD (Every Last One, One True Thing, Black and Blue) nothing really dramatic happens in Miller's Valley. There's regular love, life and death but it's not agonizing, unimaginably violent or pathologically cruel. It's just your run of the mill stuff - strokes, abortions, infidelity, drug abuse - but it's balanced with love and real caring.
Sound boring? It's not. Every time I sat down to read it was like catching up with a friend.
I had no idea how Miller's Valley would end and apparently neither did the author, because what she implies in the last few pages is incongruous to the story that has come before. I simply could not believe it.
Despite the rather bizarre ending, Miller's Valley is a satisfying and entertaining read.