Tag: The Mill River Recluse

#BestsellerCode100: Darcie Chan’s The Mill River Recluse Wrap-Up Poll

Time to wrap up the discussion of our latest novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listThe Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan. The conversation started here.

Note: Post does not contain spoilers.

The Mill River Recluse: A Novel* by Darcie Chan

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

We are reading these books because they were picked by the computer algorithm in The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers as the best of the bestsellers.  Do you agree with the computer that this book should be on the list?  Why or why not?

 What was your final opinion of The Mill River Recluse?

 

Do you agree with the computer that this novel is one of the best of the bestsellers?

 

Join us on social media:

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What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 94 on the list, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson (Originally published in 2007) -Discussion begins January 30, 2017.

#BestsellerCode100: A Writer’s Review of The Mill River Recluse

Today we have a review/analysis of The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan from a writer’s perspective.

This post contains spoilers.

The Mill River Recluse: A Novel* by Darcie Chan

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Mary McAllister is a widow who lives in a white marble mansion on a hill outside of the town of Mill River, Vermont. Past circumstances have left her with severe social anxiety — among other issues — and she has been a recluse for many years. Father Michael O’Brien is her only friend and confidante. As the story progresses, we learn why Mary is trapped in her own house, and what other secrets are being kept in this seemingly quiet community.

If you haven’t read it yet, you might want to visit Karen’s review of this book first. She makes some good points.

 

Photo of a house in Vermont by Mariamichelle via Visualhunt.com

Path to Publishing

The story behind the book is just as heartwarming as the book itself.

The Mill River Recluse is Darcie Chan’s debut novel. She explains her experiences writing and publishing it in “A Letter for the Author” in the back matter.  Many authors will be able to relate to her trials, if not her successes.

After finishing the manuscript for her first novel by writing evenings after work for two and a half years, she found an agent who tried to sell it to traditional publishers. As with many, many first novels, no one was interested and so she put it away in a drawer. (Writers call these first novels “trunk” novels – the ones that sit in a trunk somewhere.)

After several years, Darcie Chan decided to publish her novel as an e-book. She expected only to sell a few hundred copies to her friends, but she set up her social media platform and waited. In a short period of time a major website that promotes e-books reviewed it and her sales took off. Before long  she hit the New York Times Bestseller list. Eventually, Ballatine Books published it in paper form. The rest is history.

Where It Breaks the Rules

Not only did The Mill River Recluse break the rules of publishing, but it also breaks many of the so-called rules for writing.

Genre:

First of all, it doesn’t fit neatly into any one genre. For example,  as Karen pointed out, it has been identified as a psychological thriller, but it really lacks the hard-driving pace and level of conflict of a thriller. It has the softer pace of a mystery, although it doesn’t fit all the requirements of a traditional mystery, either. It has some romantic elements, but they aren’t extensive enough to qualify it as a romance or even romantic suspense. It’s not clear where it fits.

Have you read the book? What genre(s) do you think describe(s) it?

Character Arc:

Another so-called writing rule Darcie Chan breaks is that the characters, particularly the main character, should grow and change throughout the book (called a character arc.) Mary’s major change, which occurs right before she dies, is she lets her daughter Daisy into her life. It isn’t clear, however, this was truly a change. She might have taken in Daisy at any point if she had recognized her earlier.

The fact Mary doesn’t grow substantially is probably due to how Darcie Chan tells the story. The beginning of the book starts with Mary’s death and the rest of Mary’s life is revealed through a series of flashbacks interwoven with scenes from the present. The flashback plot structure can make it difficult to develop a traditional character arc.

On the other hand, Father O’Brien does change at the end, when he donates all his pilfered silver spoons to a charity.

The Ending:

Many genre novels exhibit some form of rising conflict and then resolution/denouement. Again, Chan doesn’t follow the norms. The end is not the resolution of a big conflict, but rather nicely wrapped up gathering of loose ends. The biggest conflict that directly involves the protagonist — between Mary and her husband — occurs at the middle of the book. The second most dramatic conflict centers on minor characters, and has no impact on the protagonist.

Character Development

A few other things stuck out for me about the characters, as well. First, Darcie Chan introduced most of her characters within the first few pages of the book, yet it was all done smoothly and naturally. I can tell you from experience, that is not an easy thing to carry off.

Secondly, Claudia (the teacher) is strongly developed for a secondary character. Her struggles to lose weight and keep it off felt realistic, immediate, and relatable. For example, who couldn’t relate to her hunger and anticipation for a few carrot sticks after class? She was also at the center of the second dramatic climax and that secondary plotline threatened to overtake Mary’s primary one. Given she had such a big role, I wonder if she will appear in a future book?

What did you think of Claudia as a character?

Conclusion:

Darcie Chan’s debut novel The Mill River Recluse took a less-traveled path to becoming a bestseller. Much of her story breaks with writing tradition, as well. Just goes to show that authors don’t have to follow the pack to pen a bestseller.

 

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Join us on social media:

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What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 94 on the list, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson (Third in a series, originally published in 2007) -Discussion begins January 30, 2017.

#BestsellerCode100: Reader’s Review The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan

Let’s take a look at The Mill River Recluse: A Novel by Darcie Chan from a Reader’s Perspective.

This post contains spoilers.

Darcie Chan’s The Mill River Recluse: A Novel*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

The Mill River Recluse, by Darcie Chan, is next up on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.

Mary McAllister has lived alone for sixty years, rarely leaving her house or meeting with anyone other than her only friend, the parish priest.  From her house overlooking the sleepy Vermont town of Mill River, she pretends to herself that she is a member of the community.  But she’s not, and most of the residents of Mill River think of her as rather peculiar, if they think of her at all.  Everyone in this story has a secret to keep, some benign, some not so benign.  In the end, a feeling of real community is kindled once all the secrets are revealed.

So far, all the books we’ve read have been intense, evoking strong emotions from the reader – either you really liked or really disliked the book. The Mill River Recluse is the first book in this challenge that left me feeling rather disappointed.  Don’t get me wrong!  It is a nice read and leaves you feeling a little warm and fuzzy inside.  The small amount of violence is really rather subdued if you compare it to our previous book, The Last Child by John Hart.  I was left feeling like it could have been much more, though, than just a nice read.

Amazon lists The Mill River Recluse as a psychological thriller.  As such, it leaves a lot to be desired.  It seemed more like your run-of-the-mill episode of a seventies detective series, not much in the way of character development for the bad guy (so much for “psychological”) and certainly not much of a “thriller” in his actions.  He comes across more a bumbling fool than a terror.

By now you might be asking yourself why this book is on the 100 Books List.  I know I was.  So I pulled out my notes from The Bestseller Code and checked what the computer algorithm looks for when choosing a likely bestseller.

  • 3 or 4 central themes, with the most frequently occurring and important theme involving human closeness, followed by home, work, kids in school, and modern technologies.  The Mill River Recluse is 100% about human closeness, both at home and at work, and also include interaction with kids.  Checkmark on this one!
  • Plot lines with a regular beating rhythm.  The chapters in The Mill River Recluse alternate between the 1940s and present day, building the backstory of Mary while at the same time introducing us to those who live in present day Mill River.  Checkmark this one!
  • Style. The author should have an understanding of everyday language, i.e. working experience in journalism or similar field.  Darcie Chan worked in the legal field before becoming a successful author. Checkmark this one!

So maybe the computer did pick a winner.  The fact that this book was on the New York Times bestseller list for several months backs up the computer’s choice.  Just because I think this book doesn’t have the literary or emotional “heft” it should have to belong on the 100 Books List is the fault of my own expectations.  Obviously, a heart-warming, feel-good book can be a bestseller if it is well written.  After all, bestsellers aren’t all thriller / mysteries or literary adventures.

What did you think of The Mill River Recluse Child? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

  1. The Mill River Recluse landing page
  2. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

After you finish the book, you might want to drop by to take our survey.

 

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

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What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 94 on the list, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson (Originally published in 2007) – Discussion begins January 30, 2017.

#BestsellerCode100: Number 95 The Mill River Recluse

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan.

This post does not contain spoilers.

The Mill River Recluse: A Novel* by Darcie Chan

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Mary McAllister is a widow who lives in a white mansion on a hill outside of the town of Mill River, Vermont. Past circumstances have left her with severe social anxiety — among other issues — and she has been a recluse for many years. Father Michael O’Brien is her only friend and confidante. Will the residents ever get to know her?

Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (June 17, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0553391879
ISBN-13: 978-0553391879

bestseller-code-100-95

 

 

Did you read The Mill River Recluse? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective
  4. After you finish the book, you might want to drop by to take our survey.

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about The Mill River Recluse? Feel free to add a link to your review here.

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 94 on the list, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson (Originally published in 2007) -Discussion begins January 30, 2017.

#BookBeginnings Darcie Chan’s The Mill River Recluse

Today we’re starting to read the next book from The Bestseller Code list of 100 best of the bestsellers – The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan – for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a wonderful meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. The premise to share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it.

 

book-beginnings-button-darcie-chan

The Mill River Recluse: A Novel* by Darcie Chan

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Widow Mary McAllister lives in a white mansion on a hill outside of the town of Mill River, Vermont. Past circumstances have left her with severe social anxiety — among other issues — and she has been a recluse for many years. No one knows her story except Father Michael O’Brien, who is her only friend and confidante.  Will the residents of Mill River find out about her secrets?

First Sentence:

As she gazed out the bay window in her bedroom, Mary McAllister knew this night would be her last.

Darcie Chan has given us a lot to wonder about in the very first sentence. We wonder what’s going to happen to Mary and how does she know?

I was also wondering about what genre this novel belongs to. Some of the blurbs call it a “genre-breaking thriller with romantic overtones,” but what I’ve read so far doesn’t seem to fit my idea of a thriller. It just doesn’t have that level of suspense. It doesn’t really feel like literary fiction either. Have you read this book? Do you have any insights?

Intrigued? Pick up a copy of Darcie Chan’s The Mill River Recluse and join our discussion which starts next week.

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What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 94 on the list, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson (Originally published in 2007) -Discussion begins January 30, 2017.

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