Reckoning with What Remains
“Charting the rise of industry and the decline of a town, Arsenault’s debut book traces a winding line between human dispossession and environmental degradation. Pensive and heartfelt, the author’s nuanced regional history is enriched by family background.”
—Andru Okun, The Boston Globe
Kerri Arsenault grew up in the rural town of Mexico, Maine, where for over one hundred years the community orbited around a paper mill that provided jobs for most townspeople, including three generations of her own family. She had a happy childhood, but years after she moved away, Arsenault realized the price she paid for that 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.” In Mill Town, Arsenault excavates the past and present, sifts through historical archives and scientific reports, talks to family and neighbors, and examines her own childhood to illuminate not only the ruin of her hometown and the collapse of the working-class, but the hazards of loving and leaving home. Mill Town is a moral wake-up call that asks, Whose lives are we willing to sacrifice for our own survival?
Kerri Arsenault is a book critic, book editor at Orion magazine, contributing editor at The Literary Hub, and author of Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains. Her work has appeared in Freeman’s, The Boston Globe, Down East, The Paris Review Daily, The New York Review of Books, Air Mail, and The Washington Post. Mill Town was shortlisted for the 2020 National Book Critics Leonard Prize, which is an award for the first book in any genre.
Mill Town has been adopted for First-Year Experience programs at:
The University of Maine’s Honors College; the University of Missouri’s Honors College
Beyond the Book
Watch Kerri Arsenault speak at FYE 2021!