Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Reading Through History: The Motoring Millers by Alberta Wilson Constant (1969)

In the second of three books about the Miller family of Gloriosa, Kansas, sisters Lou Emma and Maddie have automobiles on their minds. First, there is an automobile race coming to their town and one of the drivers will be staying with the girls, their professor father, and their stepmother, Miss Kate. Afterward, when their father is invited to a conference in Colorado, where his idol will also be in attendance, the girls find themselves whisked away on a family road trip in the family car, the Great Smith. The drive is anything but uneventful, as a variety of difficulties  thwart their path and bring to light at least one unexpected surprise.

The biggest surprise of this book was that I actually got to read a copy! None of the books in this trilogy (which also includes Those Miller Girls! (1965) and Does Anybody Care About Lou Emma Miller? (1979)) is particularly easy to find, and this one seems to be the least commonly available. Nevertheless, my academic librarian husband was able to track down a copy via inter-library loan and though I had to read them out of order, I have now completed the series.

While interesting to me as a fan of the series, however, The Motoring Millers, may be the weakest of the three books, at least in terms of plot. The first part of the story, involving the car race, starts off very slowly and isn't all that engaging. It gives the author an opportunity to insert some girl power into the book (one of the drivers in the race is a woman) and there is some exposition about the growing pains in the new stepfamily, but most of the interesting stuff happens in the second half of the book, during the roadtrip. The descriptions of what it was like to drive a car any distance in the early 1900s are fascinating, as are the details of how Kansas and Colorado looked in those days. Road trips are also always a great way for characters to work out issues in their relationships with others, and this storyline goes a long way toward bringing harmony to the Miller family.

Overall, this series is a worthwhile read with wholesome values, believable family dynamics and many wonderful details about day-to-day life 100 years ago. Though this second book had to go back to the library, I hope I'll be able to get it again when my daughters are old enough to relate to the Miller girls!

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