Discussion Guide:

1. Miller’s Valley begins with an epigraph from James Baldwin: “Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.” Think about what home means to you. What does home mean for Mimi? Do you equate home more with people or with places?

2. Water appears as a theme throughout the novel. What do you think the flooding of Miller’s Valley represents for the different characters? For Mimi? For her mother? For Ruth? How does each handle the change?

3. Consider Mimi’s relationships with Steven and Donald. How do you think each man fits into her life at the time? Do you think Mimi loved Steven like she loved Donald?

4. “Maybe everyone stays the same inside, even when their life looks nothing like what they once had, or even imagined” (p. 250). Mimi muses on this line at the end of the novel. How do you think Mimi has changed? How do you think she has stayed the same?

5. How do you think Mimi was affected by her relation- ship with Tommy and his eventual disappearance? Do you think this changed her relationship with other members of her family?

6. From the beginning of the novel, the struggle between the residents of Miller’s Valley and the government is one of history versus progress. As Mimi says about Donald’s grandfather, “I always wondered if they wrote him off because his name was Elmer. The gov- ernment people talked a lot about the future. Elmer was such an old guy’s name, a piece of the past” (p. 4). Think about a time when progress has had an effect on your life or your home. How did you handle it? Do you think history can be helped by progress?

7. Mr. Bally sees a quality and drive in Mimi that he rec- ognizes. How do you think this impacts Mimi’s future? Do you think her career path would have been the same if she had never met Mr. Bally?

8. What do you think family means in the novel? What does it mean to Mimi? To you?

9. After Mimi makes the discovery in Ruth’s attic, she says to her mother: “Tell Ruth I got what she wanted. . . . Tell her everything else in the house is gone” (p. 242). How do you think Ruth will feel about this news? Do you think she has lived with any remorse? Do you think Mimi’s mother knew?

10. Think about a time when you had to leave home. Did you go back? Why or why not?