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Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains

Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains

by Kerri Arsenault


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What are we willing to tolerate and whose lives are we willing to sacrifice for our own survival? What are the ways that "place" can shape, repel and draw us in? Arsenault sifts through historical archives and her own experience in this atmospheric memoir and searing exposé.

Winner of the 2021 Rachel Carson Environmental Book Award
Winner of the 2021 Maine Literary Award for Nonfiction
Finalist for the 2020 National Book Critics John Leonard Prize for Best First Book
Finalist for the 2021 New England Society Book Award

Finalist for the 2021 New England Independent Booksellers Association Award
A New York Times Editors’ Choice and Chicago Tribune top book for 2020

Mill Town is the book of a lifetime; a deep-drilling, quick-moving, heartbreaking story. Scathing and tender, it lifts often into poetry, but comes down hard when it must. Through it all runs the river: sluggish, ancient, dangerous, freighted with America’s sins.”
Robert Macfarlane, author of Underland

Kerri Arsenault grew up in the small, rural town of Mexico, Maine, where for over 100 years the community orbited around a paper mill that provided jobs for nearly everyone in town, including three generations of her family. Kerri had a happy childhood, but years after she moved away, she realized the price she paid for that childhood. The price everyone paid. The mill, while providing the social and economic cohesion for the community, also contributed to its demise.

Mill Town is a book of narrative nonfiction, investigative memoir, and cultural criticism that illuminates the rise and collapse of the working-class, the hazards of loving and leaving home, and the ambiguous nature of toxics and disease with the central question; Who or what are we willing to sacrifice for our own survival?

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250799685
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/07/2021
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 139,479
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)

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 programme. Her writing has appeared in Freeman’s, Lithub,, and The Minneapolis Star Tribune, among other publications. She lives in New England. Mill Town is her first book.

Table of Contents

Preamble 1

1 What Goes Around, Comes Around 5

2 What Goes Up Must Come Down 22

3 Connecting with Dot 47

4 Happy Days 58

5 With Great Power 72

6 Family and Other Acts of Omission 98

7 Margins of Safety 110

8 Vacationland 126

Interlude 155

9 What Remains 157

10 Strike One, Strike Two … 166

11 Hope Springs Eternal 193

12 Pipe Dreams 221

13 Going Downhill 259

14 The End of the Line 271

15 Buried in Paper 284

16 The Truth Lies Somewhere 298

Coda 311

Acknowledgments 315

Notes 319

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