A friend called recently to tell me about a book she'd read and enjoyed, thought I might like to read it. So, I checked at our library and found The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan on the shelf.
The book is touted as being in the timeless tradition of Maeve Binchy. When I read that, I knew I'd be in for a book that focused on people and the twists and turns in their lives. Turned out to be right on.
The book centers on Mary McAllister, a woman who became a recluse after a tragic event in her teen years and a short marriage with a man who abused and physically maimed her. Though Mary lives in her marble mansion alone, she has one dedicated friend, Father O'Brien, who is her lifeline for many years. We see many of the people of the community, learn of their stories and relationship of any kind to the reclusive woman. Most have never even seen her but many have a tie of some sort.
The story is set in Mill River, Vermont which is a small village filled with people who all have their own story. Ms Chan weaves the stories together very well, makes us cheer for the good guys and hiss at the bad ones. This is not a literary masterpiece but it's a good story which stirred me emotionally. The story is somewhat predictable, but that's alright. Ms Chan develops her characters well, moves the story along with good pacing despite many sections that are flashbacks.
I found it interesting that the book was published by a British publisher called Sphere, which is part of Little, Brown in the UK. The author is an American, the book is set in America so why? I'm guessing that American publishers didn't make an offer and the UK group did. This is a debut novel and publishers are wary of first novels, rightly so as their success is a gamble.
In the Acknowledgements section, the author mentions the help her friends gave in using social media to promote the book. As a result of whatever marketing Sphere did and the social media thrust, the book has sold over 700,000 copies and hit the bestseller list last year. The second Mill River novel was released earlier this week. Its title is The Mill River Redemption.
The first novel has been described byvarious readers as heartwarming, a sweet story, about family, friendship and love. So, if you like a feel-good kind of story, this one's for you.