Audiobook Review: Mill Town by Kerri Arsenault

Mill Town: Reckoning With What Remains by Kerri Arsenault

Published: September 1, 2020 by Macmillan Audio

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Synopsis: Kerri Arsenault grew up in the rural working class town of Mexico, Maine. For over 100 years the community orbited around a paper mill that employs most townspeople, including three generations of Arsenault’s own family. Years after she moved away, Arsenault realized the price she paid for that seemingly secure childhood. The mill, while providing livelihoods for nearly everyone, also contributed to the destruction of the environment and the decline of the town’s economic, moral, and emotional health in a slow-moving catastrophe, earning the area the nickname “Cancer Valley.”

In Mill Town, Arsenault undertakes an excavation of a collective past, sifting through historical archives and scientific reports, talking to family and neighbors, and examining her own childhood to present a portrait of a community that illuminates not only the ruin of her hometown and the collapse of the working-class of America, but also the hazards of both living in and leaving home, and the silences we are all afraid to violate. In exquisite prose, Arsenault explores the corruption of bodies: the human body, bodies of water, and governmental bodies, and what it’s like to come from a place you love but doesn’t always love you back.

A galvanizing and powerful debut, Mill Town is an American story, a human predicament, and a moral wake-up call that asks: what are we willing to tolerate and whose lives are we willing to sacrifice for our own survival?

Review: ***I received a free copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Macmillan Audio and Netgalley!***

I’m not entirely sure where this book went wrong for me. Maybe I am not the right audience for it. Perhaps I should have read it versus listened to it. Perhaps I had the wrong expectations. I can’t say for sure but it was just boring.

The author of the book did the audiobook and that was the wrong choice. The entire book is read in deadpan. There is absolutely no life in it, no passion, no excitement. I was bored to tears listening to it and struggled to focus on what was being said.

The book had some interesting pieces to it. And I could tell that the author has a lot of strong feelings about how the story of her hometown relates to a larger picture of environmental irresponsibility, lack of corporate accountability and the deceit of the general public. Unfortunately that is way too large of a scope for a single book. So while the author makes some interesting points about these topics there is no depth or exploration of the idea.

There are also a LOT of tangents in this book. All of the material focusing on the town and the struggles and effects of the paper mill were really riveting. But there were also whole chapters on the town’s founding, her own family tree, her travel experiences and lots of other things. It detracted from the main story. Frankly, at times it self like a memoir of her family and that just wasn’t something I found interesting or compelling.

I got to about halfway through the audiobook before I couldn’t stand it any longer and stopped. I am sure this story will find its audience but I was not it.