Mill Town | Kerri Arsenault

Summary of: Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains
By: Kerri Arsenault


In the emotionally gripping book ‘Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains’, author Kerri Arsenault takes us on a heartbreaking journey through her hometown of Mexico, Maine, revealing the effects of industrial pollution on working-class families like hers. By weaving personal anecdotes with investigative journalism, Arsenault brings to light the deceit and denial surrounding the town’s paper mill, which has polluted the land and river, leading to higher cancer rates and devastated lives. As the demand for paper has diminished, the town’s economy is at stake, with jobs being threatened and livelihoods hanging in the balance. This summary will take you through the impacts of industrial pollution on small-town America and the tragic consequences of ignoring the toxic reality.

The Searing Memoir of a Working-Class Family

Kerri Arsenault’s Mill Town is a powerful story of her hometown, Mexico, Maine, where polluting paper mills have damaged the environment and the health of its residents, including her own family. Arsenault combines personal memoir with investigative journalism to expose the ecological and political havoc wreaked by industrial pollution. Mill Town is a finalist for several prestigious awards, including the National Book Critics John Leonard Prize and the New England Society Book Award. With affection and concern, Arsenault’s work sheds light on the tragic human predicament that plagues working-class families throughout America.

Life, Loss, and Progress

Arsenault’s evolution of Mexico, Maine illustrates the impacts of industrial development. Initially centered around paper mills, the town’s survival is put at risk as digital technology shifts demand. Arsenault reflects on how generations have succumbed to the pitfalls of their environment, even as it evolves.

Deadly Secrets

In “Mill Town,” Kerri Arsenault uncovers the dark history of her hometown, Rumford, Maine. She delves into the mill industry, which contaminated the town’s water and soil, causing alarming rates of cancer in the population. The book exposes the political and economic powers that suppressed the truth and silenced the voices of those who sought to reveal it. Dr. Edward “Doc” Martin, the town’s doctor, was one of the few who spoke out about the mill’s practices and their links to cancer. However, he was shunned and barred from the hospital, and his claims were dismissed by hospital authorities and environmental experts. Arsenault’s account reveals the devastating effects of prioritizing profit over people’s health and well-being. She challenges readers to question the role of corporations and government in protecting citizens from harmful practices and to demand accountability for their actions.

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