Thinking of Miller Place: A Memoir of Summer Comfort

Thinking of Miller Place –

Welcome to my world- or part of it!

The second printing of  Thinking of Miller Place has a new cover outside and updates inside, including the Reading Guide for book and discussion groups, and an update on “the Finns.”

Imagine waking up and staring into eyes exactly like yours, seeing a mouth that smiles with the corner just a little crooked, connected to a body identical to yours from double-jointed thumbs to bony shoulders?  This is only part of what being an identical twin was for Ethel Lee-Miller.

In Thinking of Miller Place Ethel Lee-Miller has crafted a memoir of childhood summers of the 1950s viewed through the lens of an identical twin.

The sense of enchantment around her grandfather’s house endows it with almost human qualities. Fulfill your nostalgic longing for New York summers or beach days anywhere, diving in the water and evenings lit by fireflies.

You don’t have to be from Long Island to escape to this enchanting oasis. Come “rest in a hammock between a childhood that was and the reality of today where you can take off your shoes and run barefoot up the hill.”

In this second printing of her contemporary memoir, Ethel Lee-Miller takes you on a visual journey that comforts, entertains, and soothes. A native of Long Island, New York, Ethel resides in Tucson Arizona with her husband. She lives just nine miles from her twin.


A snippet of the Reading Group Guide. The full guide is in the book.

    1.  Thinking of Miller Place is filled with childhood scenes of summer. Which scenes were the most memorable for you?


    1.  Miller Place is depicted as an idyllic place and yet there are “pokes and holes.” Discuss the tone of the book, the “pokes and holes.” Do you think the author achieved the effect of an idyllic place mixed with that reality?


    1.  Discuss the metaphor of the red ribbon and what it signifies for the protagonist. (Intro., Chapters 1 and 5) Do you have a ‘red ribbon experience’—a time that defined your life?


    1. Ethel’s mother, as viewed through the young Ethel’s eyes, is a mix of snob and courageous person. Does the scene with Summer Cat show her mother’s softer side? (Chapter 14) How do you think the era influenced her mother’s viewpoint?


    1. The author’s father is a mix of hero and all too human man. Is this portrayal clear? How does the parental relationship compare to your family?


    1.  Chapter 3 entitled “My Finn” introduces us to Eileen, Ethel’s twin. What insights did this section give you into a twin relationship? How does Ethel’s possessiveness affect her relations with both her twin and her older sister?


    1. In later years, Lee-Miller remembers Eddie and sees ‘Eddies’ in her classrooms. (end of Chapter 18). Has something like this ever happened to you? How have you over/under compensated for childhood self-centeredness?


    1. At first glance, Thinking of Miller Place appears to be a collection of assorted scenes, almost like a scrapbook. Yet the chapters reveal detail, dialogue, and emotions as if they were part of novel. What scenes do you recall from your childhood summers?


    1. Memoir is said to be a retelling of a story with the author’s memories and musing over the motivation, and subsequent changing point of view as an adult. What does the author muse about? (Introduction) What musings did your reading of Thinking of Miller Place prompt about your childhood?



People are Talking About…

Your story evoked so many remembrances of my own childhood, though I never had anything like a Miller Place… I guess anything that might have come close would have been the feeling I had when riding my Schwin bike. It was freedom to me… And you are right—many of those early times and experiences all helped to shape and mold us into the people we have grown up to be now… I think there should be a sequel. ~ Terrence Weber, co-author Thy Will Be Done: A Spiritual Portrait of Terence Cardinal Cooke

What a fine memoir…so evocative and poignant, not to mention well-written. I found so many parallels to my summers in Brentwood on my grandparent’s acreage—the dirt roads, self-cleared land, self-built house, berries, nuns, and more. Good Humor Toasted Almond—definitely the best. ~ D.A. Reilly, Archivist, Sonoma State University CA

For a former Marine and a redneck cowboy to read this kind of book may seem strange to some people, including me. The reading was completely enjoyable and the characters are so well described…The most touching part of the book was when you wrote about Eddie. Being a kid who moved a lot and being picked on at times, I could relate to what he went through. It was very touching how you ended the story of Eddie…Thank you for writing the book and allowing all of us who read it to be a part of your childhood world at Miller Place! – Al Manor, Motivational & Keynote Speaker, AZ

Who says we can’t go back to the beach of our childhood? In this charming memoir, Ethel Lee-Miller has captured those memories. The lazy, hazy days of an era when summer was truly “a summer” all come alive in this gem of a book. Lee-Miller’s gift for description vividly endows memories of life, family and growing up over six years of summer vacations. Viewed through the eyes of a child, vignettes are enhanced with adult insight. Doubling our pleasure, Lee-Miller is an identical twin; the reader shares in their unique bond.~ Michaele Lockhart, author, Coming Home; & Last Night at the Claremont

In her book, Ethel Lee- Miller manages to capture the magic of the “red-ribbon” place of her youth with exceptional clarity and touching emotion. Would that we all could return to such a happy place and have the talent to share it with others in such a crisp, evocative writing style. What a joy it is to be part of her special family, with real life characters like her “Finn” coming to life in glorious fashion… Moves far beyond the norm to reveal why Lee-Miller sees her experiences as molding her personality and life philosophy, not an easy task for a writer of memoirs. ~ Duke Southard, AZ author, The Week From Heaven and Hell

I am 78 and grew up in Miller Place and went to the local school for 8 years…I am a member of the “rich Davis” clan. We were distinguished as “Farmer Davis”, “Quaker Davis”, “Peaches Davis”, etc. I was “Post Office Davis” since my family had the general store and post office…I got a kick out of your “white washed stones” in the driveway…Anyway, I have rambled on long enough. Loved your book. ~Jane Davis Carter, Miller Place NY


Despite its idyllic setting, Miller Place has its “pokes and holes.” There were neighborhood feuds, cases of racial prejudice, riding out hurricanes under a table, and making fun of “Eddie.” That was the awkward kid that nobody wanted …When she became a teacher, Lee-Miller writes, she tried “to make amends by being kinder” to all the “Eddies” she encountered in her classrooms. That’s the most magical thing about “Thinking of Miller Place” –the adult voice of Ethel Lee-Miller as she looks back with sensitivity, humor and compassion on those long-ago summers of her childhood. ~ Tom Walker, co-author Contrary Creek

A recollection of growing up and smelling the roses, before adulthood takes us off into different places…I was particularly taken with Ethel’s dynamic with her two sisters…added nuance of being a “twin.” …reminded me of some hazy moments in my adolescence when my mother and father were real people doing things I then didn’t understand, while I moved on. ~ Carl Selinger, author, Stuff You Don’t Learn In Engineering School

I loved Thinking of Miller Place. My wish is that everyone could have a ‘red ribbon’ in their life. Although these were your memories I felt like I was there with you…a must for my own sister. We are not twins but it would be wonderful to help her remember too. Thinking of Miller Place put a smile on my face too. ~ Bryn Shain, retired educator, NJ

…A delightful trip down memory lane. You see, I am the Finn in her memoir…I am her twin, affectionately known as Finn. I thank her for allowing me to relive the delight I experienced during those pre-teen summers of the 1950s…She has a gift for linking words, characters and events until the picture is so real it’s almost tangible…Real life characters may bring a knowing nod from readers as they recognize the very human interactions amongst children, parents and neighbors. …for a twin, who has experienced the special sibling bond this accident of birth can bring, the stories are doubly meaningful. Lee-Miller has shared her experiences with a loving authenticity. ~ Eileen Erickson, Tucson AZ