The Mill River Recluse

Published January 14, 2012 by myliteraryleanings

Review of The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan

Overview from Disfigured by the blow of an abusive husband, and suffering her entire life with severe social anxiety disorder, the widow Mary McAllister spends almost sixty years secluded in a white marble mansion overlooking the town of Mill River, Vermont. Her links to the outside world are few: the mail, the media, an elderly priest with a guilty habit of pilfering spoons, and a bedroom window with a view of the town below. Most longtime residents of Mill River consider the marble house and its occupant peculiar, though insignificant, fixtures. An arsonist, a covetous nurse, and the endearing village idiot are among the few who have ever seen Mary. Newcomers to Mill River–a police officer and his daughter and a new fourth grade teacher–are also curious about the reclusive old woman. But only Father Michael O’Brien knows Mary and the secret she keeps–one that, once revealed, will change all of their lives forever.

My Review:

I read about this story on a Yahoo article and knew that I had to read it. The story mentioned that this author had made $130,000 in one year and had published it herself as an e-book. As far as I know, you can only read it on an e-book reader of some kind. There were also a lot of positive reviews on

I am here to tell you that it lives up to the hype. The best thing about this story was the characters. Of course, the main character, Mary McAllister, is the most interesting, primarily because she was the catalyst for the entire thing, despite the fact that she rarely leaves her home, a big marble mansion with a view of the river that the town is named for.

Though she seems far removed from the daily lives of her fellow townspeople, unbeknownst to them, she has always been there. She watched them from the sidelines. She worried about them when they struggled and more importantly she used her wealth to help them when she could.

Another character that I absolutely loved was the priest Father O’Brien whom Mary refers to as Michael. His penchant for stealing spoons stands in sharp contrast with his vows of poverty as well as the commandment against stealing, yet he can’t seem to stop. He and Mary have more in common than he previously thought. They both have a weakness and they both can’t seem to control it.

Throughout the story we periodically go back in time, starting in the year 1940 with the character of Patrick McAllister, who eventually becomes Mary’s husband. When Patrick first meets Mary she is a shy girl who tries her best to avoid him. While she is secretly drawn to him, she knows that no good can come of the time she spends with him.

I loved the author’s comparison here of the way Patrick looks at Mary and the way he looks at the horse that he eventually buys from Mary’s father. This is how Patrick and Mary first meet, by the way. Patrick is looking to buy a horse and Mary’s father sells them. Here’s an example:

“Patrick hardly noticed her attire. He was much more interested in what was beneath her clothing. He saw only the small of her throat exposed at the top of her shirt, the outline of her breasts, the slim waist hidden beneath the belt. She was about five and a half feet tall, but her petite frame made her appear much smaller. Such fine breeding, he thought.” p. 15

Her father is thrilled when they finally do wed. He worries about her and her tendency to withdraw from other people. He hopes that Patrick will bring her out of her shell and for a while it seems to work. Then tragedy strikes and Mary is drawn permanently back in. This is how she spends the rest of her life- locked away in her marble mansion. And when she finally dies, the townspeople wonder to themselves who will benefit from it. The answer will most definitely surprise them.

I loved this book. The best thing about it, besides the great writing, is that the author published this book on her own. She had an agent but no publisher. Her true vision and voice shine throughout the book. And even without the gatekeepers giving her their permission, she has made a decent amount of money. This to me is both incredible and encouraging for my own prospects, but best of all this is one entertaining story. I cried at the end of it and even at some points in the middle. I don’t have time to tell you all the great things about it, but I can tell you that it is definitely worth your while.

Contains: some language (very little), some sexual references (but again very little), some domestic violence, and a suicide


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