Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Mill River Recluse, by Darcie Chan

"The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means."  - Oscar Wilde

This is a banana-chocolate chip muffin of a book -- a reader's guilty comfort food.  Set in a small, scenic village in Vermont, it tells the story of the agoraphobic widow, Mary McAllister, who never leaves the great marble mansion atop the hill. She forms a sense of connection to the people of Mill River, however, through her visits with the devoted Catholic priest, Father Michael.

The characters, apart from the odd quirk or two -- Father Michael has a spoon-pilfering compulsion, and "Crazy Daisy" spends her days making, bottling and selling magical potions -- are fairly one-dimensional, the good ones clearly delineated from the bad.

Although The Recluse of Mill River is written for adults, I had the not unpleasant sense of nostalgia for children's fiction when I read it. I reverted to the age when one absolutely thrills to a story that promises no unpleasant surprises and in which everything will be set to rights at the end. While you are between the covers of this book, at least, the world will be a just one.

One of my bookish friends and I used to wag our fingers at each other after discussing yet another dark piece of literary fiction we'd just read and threaten that our next book -- no, really! -- would have a pink cover (our code for Chick Lit).  This book doesn't quite fall into that genre; I don't think it's formulaic enough, and there's no steamy love story. It is, however, a feel-good novel, and that's not a bad thing. I think even Oscar Wilde might have agreed.

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