Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Mill River Recluse

"Sometimes, what you find in a small town can surprise you," writes author Darcie Chan in The Mill River Recluse. The novel centers on Mary Hayes McAllister, a wealthy, disfigured, elderly widow who inhabits a white marble mansion that overlooks the insular town of Mill River, Vermont. Chan describes Mary as "a woman who knew the difference between being alone and being lonely, who wanted so much to be accepted, to have coffee at the bakery, to come face-to-face with someone she didn't know without feeling fearful." Mary's early life was marred by an event which stole her innocence and confidence—and later led to an abusive, heartbreaking marriage. 

The story behind Mary's reclusiveness, which winds back to WWII, unfolds among other Mill River townsfolk who are struggling with their own challenges and demons. This includes an 87 year-old priest, Mary's only friend and confidante; a lustful, power-hungry cop; a widower transplanted from Boston with a young daughter; a teacher battling her waistline; and the town misfit, who practices witchcraft.

Secrets and unexpected gestures of kindness shape Chan's compassionate novel that blends elements of mystery, suspense and romance. After sixty years, Mary's reclusiveness is second nature in town, but behind-the-scenes, she remains attuned to the lives of those around her—"decent, hardworking people, the kind that don't have a lot but would give everything they have to a neighbor in need." Mary humbly leads this initiative, which culminates in a beautifully rendered denouement that rekindles hope for a troubled world. 
Ballantine Books, $15.00 Trade Paper, 9780553391879, 416 pp
Publication Date: June 17, 2014
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (6/24/14), click HERE