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Mill Town
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Mill Town

Reckoning with What Remains

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


Bookseller Recommendation

Mill Town

“This is a beautifully written story about two small towns in Maine and the paper mill that is the foundation of their economy. It tells the much bigger story of the sacrifice of the workers, and the injustices to them and the environment. Arsenault masters the nuances of family and history, which pulled me into the story in the first few pages and kept me there. A tender and honest reveal of her own family and hometown, and a truthful history of our nation. I’ll be recommending this as a must-read to our customers.”

Arcadia Books image Todd Miller, Arcadia Books

Description

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 her 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, physical, and emotional health in a slow-moving catastrophe, earning the area the nickname “Cancer Valley.” Mill Town is an personal investigation, where Arsenault sifts through historical archives and scientific reports, talks to family and neighbors, and examines her own childhood to illuminate the rise and collapse of the working-class, the hazards of loving and leaving home, and the ambiguous nature of toxics and disease.

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About the author


Kerri Arsenault is the Book Review Editor at Orion magazine, and Contributing Editor at Lithub. Arsenault received her MFA in Creative Writing from The New School and studied in Malmö University’s Communication for Development master’s program. Her writing has appeared in Freeman’s, Lithub, Oprah.com, and The Minneapolis Star Tribune, among other publications. She lives in New England. Mill Town is her first book.


Reviews

“Combining personal history with investigative reporting, Arsenault pays loving homage to her family’s tight-knit Maine town even as she examines the cancers that have stricken so many residents.”

The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)

“Trenchant and aching…What Arsenault has provided is a model of persistence, thoughtful reflection and vividly human personal narrative in uncovering a heartbreaking story that could be told in countless American towns, along countless American rivers.”

Steve Paul , Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Clear-eyed and self-deprecating, Arsenault is a welcome guide through the history of Mexico and Rumford, capturing the voices of their inhabitants, the stories they tell and the confidences they keep. She is tenacious in her search for answers, tender in her interactions with her mother and their neighbors. A riveting blend of reportage and memoir reveals the secrets of a paper mill town. ”

Michael Berry , Maine Sunday Telegram

“A valuable addition to the literature of New England’s industrial legacy, something many residents have either forgotten or choose to ignore, to the region’s detriment. ”

Alex Hanson , Los Angeles Review of Books

“[A] powerful, investigative memoir....Arsenault paints a soul-crushing portrait of a place that’s suffered 'the smell of death and suffering' almost since its creation. This moving and insightful memoir reminds readers that returning home--"the heart of human identity"--is capable of causing great joy and profound disappointment.”

Publisher's Weekly (starred)

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