Archive for the ‘New Hampshire’ Category

The Arsonist by Sue Miller

July 24, 2015

[Lesley] This is the first book I’ve read by Sue Miller even though she’s been on my radar for a long time. I listened to this as a downloaded audiobook (from the library’s OverDrive collection – and it was read by the author. I loved hearing Miller’s take on each of the characters in the way her voice changed for each person. The story itself is interesting with many subplots. The story is set in a small town in New Hampshire made up of year-round locals and a regular summer home population. That in itself is two worlds dependent on each other but also somewhat at odds. Frankie, the oldest daughter of a summer family has come back to the house where her parents now live after retiring. She has worked her whole career for a NGO that worked on hunger in Africa. Now, she is unsure whether she will return to that life and is seeking refuge and time to think and reassess. Her parents have retired, it turns out, in part because of Alfie’s progressing memory loss. Sylvia, whose family owned the summer home for generations, hasn’t told anyone about Alfie’s condition yet but is trying to adjust to their new lives and her new role. Bud, a former Washington D.C. journalist and political insider, owns and runs the local weekly newspaper. He has chosen this quiet town as a place to settle down and make a difference in a different way. He straddles being a year-round local (owns a house, runs the newspaper, is involved in one way or another in everything that goes on) and being an outsider (as a newcomer and an observer). All of these individual stories and stories of how people relate to each other are set against the backdrop of a series of arsons happening in town.

I was invested in the characters and cared about the life of this small town, like so many in NH. The arson and mystery surrounding it adds a tension that keeps the story suspenseful. There is a lot at stake in this book — family relationships, love, identity, memory, community, pride, independence, and property that is valuable in monetary and personal ways. Miller handles all of it deftly in her well-written and narrative prose. The ending isn’t at all neatly sewn up even though some things are resolved. It all feels very true to real life and I will definitely be reading more of this author’s books.