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Publisher's Summary

"This is a listen for anyone interested in small-town America, how it's changed, and why it matters...Though Arsenault may not be a professional narrator, her passion for these important stories comes through with just the right amount of sincerity." (AudioFile Magazine

This program is read by the author.

A galvanizing and powerful debut, Mill Town is an American story, a human predicament, and a moral wake-up call that asks: What are we willing to tolerate and whose lives are we willing to sacrifice for our own survival?

Kerri Arsenault grew up in the rural working class town of Mexico, Maine. For over 100 years, the community orbited around a paper mill that employs most townspeople, including three generations of Arsenault’s own family. Years after she moved away, Arsenault realized the price she paid for her seemingly secure 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.”

Mill Town is an personal investigation, where Arsenault sifts through historical archives and scientific reports, talks to family and neighbors, and examines her own childhood to illuminate the rise and collapse of the working-class, the hazards of loving and leaving home, and the ambiguous nature of toxics and disease. 

Mill Town is a moral wake-up call that asks: Whose lives are we willing to sacrifice for our own survival? 

Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year - 2020
Barnes & Noble Best New Books of the Year - 2020
Chicago Tribune Best Books of the Year - 2020

A Macmillan Audio production from St. Martin's Press 

"While this is a portrait of a town in decline, it’s also a paean to the community that cared for it and those who have remained there, including Arsenault’s own classmates, friends, and family. The author’s unusually quiet, tender reading evinces that love, while also clearly setting that affection against the brutality of the forces that have laid Mexico low." (Booklist)

©2020 Kerri Arsenault (P)2020 Macmillan Audio

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An extremely important book for any American

This book has really woken me up to aspects of everyday pollution that have gone unnoticed, under-reported, and suppressed. Kerri Arsenault has lost family members to cancers caused by the paper mill in her town. She tries to uncover the truth behind the pollution caused by the mill, and other mills like it, and generalizes her investigations into dioxin pollution and chemical pollution, and the toll that pollution has taken on local populations who are often under-informed or misinformed about the effects of this pollution. To give one very tiny example, lobster meat and particularly the green tamale that is coveted by many lobster-eaters is very likely filled with harmful dioxins. And this is just the beginning. I appreciated Ms. Arsenault's attempts to shine light on these harmful practices. I particularly enjoyed the parts of the book that covered the science of pollution and cancer. I was fascinated to learn of the Machiavellian attempts of corporations to strongarm their destructive policies and manipulate small-town politicians to achieve their ends. However, I struggled mightily with listening to Ms. Arsenault's speaking voice--she isn't a born narrator and her cadences and raspy voice are grating and off-putting. Unfortunately, she often digresses into trivia that distract from the important throughline of the book. But having said that, I am very grateful for her attempts to expose these hidden cancer-causing and disease-causing practices that lurk unnoticed and unspoken in our midst, and hope that, like Rachel Carson and others before her, these messages will be heeded by the general public. This book should be a rallying cry for citizen awareness and action. Corporations and public agencies like the Federal EPA and the Maine DEP have utterly failed us.

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True, sadly true.

When I moved to Maine 40 years ago I lived on Water street in Rumford - the air from the mill permeated the town. Water from the laundromat never removed the stink of the Mill from my clothes. Years later, my husband has lost a mother, father, sister to cancers. He fights his own battle with the disease. Than you Keri for this book.

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So Many Threads to This Story

Arsenault’s story isn’t just one story: it has numerous historical tributaries, each compelling—individual, family, Industrial, cultural. She considers her subject from many angles, and resists the urge to make it neat. The tension between a healthy economy and human and environmental health is made palpable. And while such a story can’t always be beautiful, Arsenault’s telling (and reading) of it is.