Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains

St. Martin's Press. Sept. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9781250155931. $27.99. BIOG
Asenault's compelling debut asks readers to consider how relationships between humans and nature impact our bodies and the environment. In her hometown of Mexico, ME, is a paper mill that employed many of the community's residents, including three generations of her family. Although the mill brought economic stability to the area, it wreaked havoc on the surrounding lands and waters. Owing to the high number of cancers and rare physical ailments, the town was dubbed "Cancer Valley." In this powerful memoir, Arsenault dredges up the town's history, interviews locals and family members, and pores over environmental reports to present the multifaceted issues facing the town, including a diminished working class, environmental destruction, and corporate corruption and greed. Included are stories about her father going on strike twice, and the negotiations that resulted. She also explores the mill for herself in order to begin learning about what life was like for machinists. Her research rounds out the story of her family, who like many families in the area, had lives intertwined with the mill and are now facing a reckoning.
VERDICT This story will resonate with readers grappling with similar crises in their hometowns and is a recommended addition to memoir collections.

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