Arts & Leisure

Book review: Mill Town: Reckoning With What Remains — by Kerri Arsenault

(St. Martin’s Press)
When Kerri Arsenault was growing up in Mexico, Maine, a paper mill town on the banks of the Androscoggin River, she felt lucky and safe; her community, comprised of generations of mill workers, was focused inward, enjoying softball games, enduring the winters — everyone knew everyone else, and they had everything they needed. But then she moved away from her small town, lived in dozens of places as young people do, married a U.S. Coast Guard officer, ensuring many more years of impermanent living situations, but never quite leaving behind the place she called home. During that time, the mill’s ability to create livelihoods for the residents was diminished, with technology replacing people and a decreased demand for the mill’s primary product. This book, an accomplished blend of memoir and investigative journalism, uncovers how the very same mill that her father and grandfather worked in their entire lives systematically destroyed the environment and the health and wellbeing of the residents of Mexico and neighboring communities. It’s riveting, extremely well written, the prose flows and carries you along as she returns, with heartbreaking and honest writing — it’s a story of working-class American towns and how industrialized pollution has eviscerated them. A must-read.
— Reviewed by Jenny Lyons of The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury.
 

8 Books Tackling Economic Disparity
Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson
Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
Show Them You’re Good, by Jeff Hobbs
Break ’em Up, by Zephyr Teachout
The Riches of This Land, by Jim Tankersley
Maid, by Stephanie Land
The Address Book, by Deirdre Mask
White Trash,  by Nancy Isenberg

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