Since this book is on the long side, I could have done without the plot line about Abe's death, but I realize that this is completely on trend and I'm the only one who doesn't like the portrayal of grieving in middle grade novels. Still, this is a fascinating portrait of small town life and should be popular with both readers who live in similar places and with those who are curious about them.
Since I have family in a small town in Iowa (under 600 people), and have witnessed its downward progression over the last thirty years, I know that this is absolutely realistic, even though it might seem odd to people with no experiences of small town life. One of my relatives even ran a resale shop for a while! Giving away houses for $1? Absolutely. In the town I know, people routinely give their houses to the town and the fire squad burns them to the ground for practice fighting fires. I was impressed that Millville had a dollar store, a grocery, and a restaurant, although I was a bit surprised that there was a library and the school was still operating with only eight children in each class.