Book Review! Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan
So let me start off with the book blurb:
Disfigured by the blow of an abusive husband, and suffering her entire life with severe social anxiety disorder, the widow Mary McAllister spends almost sixty years secluded in a white marble mansion overlooking the town of Mill River, Vermont.
Her links to the outside world are few: the mail, the media, an elderly priest with a guilty habit of pilfering spoons, and a bedroom window with a view of the town below.
Most longtime residents of Mill River consider the marble house and its occupant peculiar, though insignificant, fixtures. An arsonist, a covetous nurse, and the endearing village idiot are among the few who have ever seen Mary.
Newcomers to Mill River — a police officer and his daughter and a new fourth grade teacher — are also curious about the reclusive old woman. But only Father Michael O’Brien knows Mary and the secret she keeps — one that, once revealed, will change all of their lives forever
Now, the review:
Yes, I have some serious issues with this book. Big ones. Serious ones.
- It was way to freaking long. Wow. All I can say is description could have been cut in half and it *still* would have been too long. I started skimming paragraphs (which means I read the first and last sentence and scan what’s in between) around page 20. Now most who know me would say, then how in the world did you keep going? You’ll see. But geez louise, this one was an epic. I gauge how long a book is by seeing how many pages it takes my Kindle % record to update. Normal books are 1-3 clicks. This one had to be 8 clicks per % (or that’s how it felt). I put the thing down 4-5 times because I was like, ‘okay … enough description already’. Yeah. It’s that long.
- There are arcs (side stories) in the story that have no bearing on the overall premise. The story is about Mary and her life. 100%, the focus is Mary. But there is a Kyle-Claudia-Rowen-Leroy arc that at the end of the story has no closure. Everyone else has some ‘link’ to Mary at the end, but these four do not. It’s like it’s own story within the story but with no particular reason why these four had a story to be told at all. Could it have been cut to shorten? Actually, no. These guys made the story interesting. Really. Kyle was a very strong character and the rest were either conflict, issue or support. But … it ended without them having more detail where it concerned Mary.
This one is a SPOILER. You have been warned.
- The revelation at the end that Daisy was Mary’s daughter was too covenant and obvious. Throughout the story, Mary is keeping ‘a secret’ but the problem is … she tells us ALL about everything else that happens and when we find out Daisy is Mary’s daughter in the last 2% of the book, there’s no time for us to learn how that TRULY affected Mary. We know where her anxiety comes from and it’s pre-Daisy. Despite the length of the story, this little blip would have been so nice to see … to understand … to FEEL. This entire book is so over-descriptive, but even if you skim you can FEEL these characters and this is SUCH A HUGE issues and we never got to feel it. I’m very disappointed in this mystery solved without letting us feel it like the rest of the story. This was just so underdeveloped, but such a CRITICAL piece of the story that it was just … ::sigh::
- Leroy’s conflict seemed inserted just to have a bad guy. He had nothing to do with Mary. That’s probably my biggest issue with all story arcs that didn’t show a direct relationship. If there was any sort of a relationship with Mary other than the one time they met when he was a teen, I would have understood it’s inclusion, but without that, it’s like this 2nd story just going along with the real one.
- So many perspectives makes it hard to really get into any one character’s head. I will say Father and Mary though were by far the most defined as we were in their POV MOST of the time. However, we were in so many others that we never fully understood what made them them. Sure we got back story, but just to the point we’d move on to another character.
The good part!
Moving on, I’m going to switch gears a little bit. Yes, I had issue, but if I have issues while reading, and those issues aren’t negated by something awesome, I don’t keep reading. Period. And I did read all the way through to the end on this.
- Mary’s tragedy of a life is a perfect backdrop for this book. It’s a conflict made for a book and it’s a conflict we can all understand. There is absolutely NO paranormal in this book (surprise to my readers! LOL). But part of the story is set through the 1900s until ‘today’ and we get to experience a lifetime in one book. Ha! That’s probably why this is so freakin’ long.
- Mill River is the perfect setting for this story. The house, the town, the people — all perfectly set and staged. We have the rich, the middle class and the poor. People act like people. They love, they fight, they hate. They are just one big group of people being … people.
- Watching the town from above (which is what Mary does) and ‘reading about the town’ from the book made me think/feel *I* was Mary. We both had this outsider’s view. Since we had a lot of time in her perspective, I wonder if this was deliberate. I mean she was a recluse who only watched and learned little bits and we did too. If so, bravo! That was genius and worked very very well! If not planned, then well, kudos! It still worked!
- Even though the side stories didn’t tie together in a way I would have liked, they really added to the story. I’d start reading about Mary (in the past) and think I need a break only to change to Kyle or Claudia in ‘real time’. This back and forth kept me always looking for what was coming next and what would be revealed and wanting to know more.
- I really liked Claudia with her issues that so many of us face.
- Kyle is an awesome main male. I’d like to see a Kyle/Claudia romance book even!
- Father is awesome. He was more fully fleshed out than anyone in the story. Perhaps that’s because he’s the simplest of them and it didn’t take as much to make him ‘him’.
- Leroy was a good ‘bad guy’ but in a sense he was only the ‘bad guy’ because there needed to be one.
- Daisy was just cute. I will say I was lost about ages through much of the book. I thought she was young in part of the story. Then about 75% of the way through I learn she is in her 60s. Well, if Mary died at 85 (was it?) and she had Daisy at 16, that would mean Daisy was actually 69 when they ‘re-met’ and saying Daisy was in her 60s was a little pushing it. Yes, true, but still. If Mary was 82, then Daisy would be 65 which is more reasonable, but calling her ‘in her 60s’ with the character development that was built really threw me, though I knew, somehow they were related right from the beginning and was just waiting for confirmation.
- The rest of ‘the town’ helped define ‘the town’ which is a character in and of itself.
With all these issues and all these likes, what do I ‘rate’ this book? It gets a solid 3 stars which means it had issue enough it wasn’t perfect (but I have to say most aren’t) but it’s also a book I could easily recommend to my literary fiction reading friends. Yes, it’s a good book. It’s a good, clean, solid, emotional, feel-good, feel-bad, love the characters, hate the characters book. I applaud Ms. Chan for her success (she self-published! You go girl!) and for taking the time to have/create a compelling cover, blurb and to have editing done on the book. As a writer, I had my issues, but none of them kept me from reading the book.
So yes, this one is recommended. Enjoy a good read.