The Mill River Recluse

by bdhesse

I have just finished reading The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan. It was overall a very good story.
The book was about an old woman, Mary, who died. It began with her death, and how the town’s people wondered about the old woman who had died. It then went back in time to Mary’s early adulthood. The book bounced back and forth between the past and the present.
We learn a lot about Mary throughout the book. She had a sever anxiety disorder, which is why she was a recluse. She was never able to fully deal with her disorder, which prevented her from leading a full life. Her story is sad, but it is also fascinating. As someone with an anxiety disorder, I found her story to be a warning: never allow your fears to rule your life, fight against them to do what you want to lead a happy healthy life.
Mary’s only real friend was the town priest, Father O’Brien. He promised Mary’s grandfather-in-law that he would take care of Mary after her husband died. He obliged, but it turned out that Mary took care of him as much as she took care of her. Father O’Brien offered Mary companionship so that she would never be lonely. He also gave her the information that she needed to feel connected to the town. But Mary offered the priest a relationship that he could never get from his parishioners. To his parishioners, he is a leader. He is their moral compass. He feared letting them know that he was flawed because of what it may do to the people’s faith. Father O’Brien was a kleptomaniac who stole spoons. He had hundreds of spoons. Throughout the story, he finds himself fighting his weakness and, mostly, losing. At the end, though, he donates all the spoons to a soup kitchen.
Mary also befriends Daisy at the end of her life. That friendship only lasted a year, but it was a very important friendship in the end. Daisy is the town crazy lady. She is a very sweet woman who happens to believe in magic. She makes potions and sells them for a living. She isn’t able to work an actual job, so she receives benefits from the government. Sadly, Daisy had no friends in Mill River until Mary befriended her because she is seen as crazy.
The McAllister family, Mary’s husband’s family, abandoned Mary after her grandfather-in-law died. Conner, the grandfather-in-law, loved Mary and made sure that she would have everything that she would ever need before he died. He was the last McAllister to visit Mary. Patrick was Mary’s husband. He was the stereotypical entitled rich brat. He was not a good husband, but Mary loved him even after his death. Patrick’s parents blamed Mary for Patrick’s death even though it was caused by Patrick himself. Mary’s father was also in the beginning of the story. He raised horses, and died as a result of an accident with a horse.
The town’s people were the main focus of the story during the present. Kyle Hanson was by far my favorite character. Kyle was a police officer from Boston. He moved to Mill River after his wife died so that his daughter wouldn’t lose both parents. His daughter, Rowan, was a fourth grader. She is a very smart, happy child. The fourth grade teacher, Claudia, ends up dating Kyle. She is a very self-conscious woman who was over-weight for most of her life. She mover to Mill River after reaching her desired weight because she wanted a fresh start. She was initially afraid to trust Kyle because she didn’t think he’d love her if she knew about her weight issues. There was also the Fitzgerald’s, the police chief and his wife. They owned a bakery, which they, and the Hanson’s, lived above. Ron was another policeman, and his wife took care of Mary while she was dying. And finally, there was Leroy. He was also a police officer, but a bad one. He was rude, he sped, he drank to much, and he stalked Claudia. In the end, Leroy gets arrested for attempted murder.
My only real problem with the book was that it was confusing at first. It wasn’t always clear when you were bouncing back to the past. But it was so addicting that I couldn’t stop reading. I wanted to know what happened next. I got very invested in most of the characters. Mary, Father O’Brien, Claudia, and Kyle in particular. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a casual read. It’s full of drama, it’s suspenseful, and it’s thrilling.