BOOK STEW REVIEW: ‘Mill Town’ by Kerri Arsenault

Below is the latest Book Stew Review from Eileen MacDougall, the host of the 80+ episodes of Book Stew, a 30-minute video and podcast devoted to writing in all forms, featuring authors, playwrights, voice artists, and journalists.

‘Mill Town’ by Kerri Arsenault

Throw away Hillbilly Elegy and pick up this amazing recounting of life and overwhelming death in Mexico and Rumford, Maine, home to a massive paper plant that actively employed and killed many of its residents.

The author blends her love of her childhood home with her research on dioxin and other deadly chemicals released during the paper-making process. The (mis) fortunes of the two towns are completely tied to the mill and to the various companies that have owned it and how the owners decimated the Androscoggin River and the land surrounding it.

There’s also a fascinating history of Arsenault’s Acadian ancestors, who migrated from France and Canada and were considered expendable and well suited to be obedient, work hard, and were sadly defeated when they finally rose up and went on strike against the dreadful mill conditions.

The combination of the author’s love of her hometown and her dread as she counts the cancer-related deaths is heart-wrenching. Even the dry bones of the endless bureaucratic denial of blame comes to life with her compelling narrative.

Quotes: “A kind of fatalism slipped unconsciously into our routines, transforming into a handing over of control to the powers that be. Silence is an accumulating force.”

“The meek will inherit the earth, Father Cyr told me, but he never said in what condition it would be when we finally assumed ownership.”

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