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4.3 out of 5 stars
Unexpectedly, Milo: A Novel
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 2, 2010
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I am a huge fan of Matthew Dicks first book Something Missing: A Novel and I had high hopes for his second book. This book had some similarities to his first work, (Neurotic main character whose quirks are running their life, a love interest, some conflict, and lots of humor) but this book seems to be directed to a more "adult" audience. There is a good deal of discussion about things like sex which for me robs the book of some of the special charm "Something Missing" had and this one would have had if that subject that been dealt with in a different manner. However the wonderfully singular storytelling is still there and the unique situations the main character Milo gets into makes this book wonderfully distinctive and intriguing (I only wish it had been longer so it wouldn't have had to end so quickly!). I recommend this book to anyone who liked Matthew Dicks first novel and to anyone who likes original characters and plot lines.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was privileged to read the author's first book, Something Missing: A Novel, and to comment on it and so it was a double treat to get a copy of his second novel to read. His writing style is fresh and funny. His very observant eye picks up the details that many of us don't see and that really is the premise of his books, no body is looking!

Milo quite obviously has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and has untold routines that he has to do so that his head doesn't feel like it will blow off. Yet he has managed to be married for 3 years without his wife knowing about his quirks and when she keeps telling him she needs space, he moves out. Apparently she meant only to go visit a friend for a week or two and to not sign a lease on an apartment. They aren't communicating very well at this point. But Milo had signed a lease and he is starting to realize that life feels so much better when he can do his rituals when needed instead of having to wait to be sure no one will observe him.

Then life takes an unexpected detour when he finds a video-camera and film on a park bench. In his search to find the owner, he discovers that the owner was using the camera as a video journal and that she feels responsible for the death of two friends. Milo decides that he has to help her and goes off on many tangents to help this girl. Along the way he makes friends and discovers that even when he lets himself and his problems be known to others, they still like him and care for him. As he observes the people around him, he comes to realize that we all have some kind of quirk and it doesn't make us bad, it just makes us each an individual.

Matthew Dicks is a very talented author that writes books that you can enjoy reading to the point of laughing out loud and yet is sensitive to the ways that each of us are different and unique and being unique in a one size fits all world is okay. This book was a delight to read and I hope to read many more books by this author.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
You know those annoying little habits that you have, that you don't want anyone else to know about? Your little rituals, the way you have to carry your keys in your right pocket and your phone in your left, and check them every time you walk out your door?

Do you hide those habits from others, embarrassed that they might raise an eyebrow, or roll their eyes, or even -- horror of horrors -- laugh at you?

If you do any of these things (and who doesn't?), then Milo Slade has you beat all to heck.

This is a man who has arranged his life, including his employment, his marriage, where he lives and who he spends time with, around his habits. His demanding habits. His obsessive-compulsive habits, one could say, though Milo doesn't think he has OCD. He thinks he has a German submarine captain in his head who gives him orders, and then begins tightening valves and increasing pressure inside Milo's mind until the orders are carried out. He doesn't think this is literally true, but it is how he pictures the mysterious source of these strange demands that control nearly everything he does.

Demands like: opening jars of Smuckers grape jelly, just to hear the pop! as the vacuum seal releases. Bowling a strike. Singing "99 Luftballoons," by Nena, in the original German, karaoke style. Cracking the cubes out of an ice cube tray. Letting the air out of his car tires and replacing it with fresh air. Perhaps the most difficult are the words that arise in Milo's mind -- placebo, or loquacious -- and which repeat over and over again, becoming louder and more insistent until he can think of nothing else, can do nothing else, and is overwhelmed with pain, until: he can hear somebody use the word. Of course, the use must be in natural conversation; he cannot simply ask someone to repeat the word, oh no -- the submarine captain wouldn't be satisfied with that.

Milo has built his world around these demands -- and then he has, somehow, managed to hide them completely from everyone around him. Including his wife. Doing so has not been easy, has probably ruined his marriage, as the two go through a trial separation that seems fairly permanent, and it has certainly increased the power of the demands on Milo, making them arise more often, making them more powerful. Keeping a secret is hard.

Of course, Milo's secret is not all that bad compared to the secret he hears when he discovers a stranger's video diary, and begins watching it, partly out of curiosity, and partly out of a desire to discover the owner's identity. Because Freckles, the girl on the videotape, has killed her best friend.

And only Milo can help.

Just as soon as he watches Star Wars: Episode III (Revenge of the Sith) one more time. Just in case the ending has changed since the last time he watched it.

This book is wonderfully written, fantastic characters, great interactions, really fascinating exploration of Milo's condition. It gets a bit tiresome in the beginning, watching Milo flail around trying to juggle his work life, his marriage, and his demands, and not doing very well; but that's the point: if it gets tiring to read about it, just imagine what it's like to live with it. But the book really picks up when Milo begins his quest, and the ending was fantastic, and nicely unexpected. Definitely recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I came to Matthew Dick through Something Missing: A Novel, Dick's second novel which has made a splash on Amazon and elsewhere. That book was wonderful and led me back to this one. Although the plots and characters are entirely different, and indeed, Something Missing might be in a crime or thriller section and Unexpectedly, Milo would not, they are very similar indeed, and all that I loved about the former is present in the latter.

Each of Dick's novels centers on a nice guy with a lot to offer but with some sort of social disorder that makes normal operation in the world difficult. Each character has carved out a niche that allows him to function successfully with his quirks/disabilities, and Dick details the niche with humorous meticulousness. As the hero's world is revealed, however, he also faces a crisis and, to do the right thing, must exit his comfort zone and put his mode of coping at risk. Resolution of his crisis also involves resolution of a mystery that both keeps the reader engaged and draws on the hero's resourcefulness. In addressing the crisis, the hero is brought into the world and transformed. He remains himself, but takes that special self into the wider world. In short, he grows up.

Like the wonderful early novels of Donald E. Westlake, such as The Busy Body and Help I Am Being Held Prisoner which threw likable, bright ne'er-do-wells into similar humorous, mysteries and capers from which they emerged grown up and better men, Unexpectedly, Milo (and Something Missing) are full of clever, real-world observations. You may not know a Milo, but he and his world will look true and familiar. One of my new favorite authors.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon August 30, 2010
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If you met the real Milo you would think of him as being a very odd character. Milo is fully aware of how people would view his idiosyncrasies so he does everything imaginable to hide his odder parts. Milo's friends don't realize that he sometimes gets an overwhelming need to crush a Weeble in the door. They have also never seen him sing "99 Luft balloons" in a karaoke bar.... In German. Milo keeps these and some of his overwhelming OCD needs as a guarded secret. Milo longs for acceptance and can not bare the thought that his oddities will become public and open for ridicule.

"Unexpectedly Milo" is a brutally genuine story of a man who can not cope in being genuine. Milo is a paradox he is drawn to people who celebrate their oddities while he forges is life around the need to keep his a secret. I could go on and on about the Milo.... but (unfortunately?) this is a book review and not a book discussion.

Onto to the review portion of the review! Matthew Dicks has created one of the more memorable characters that I have ever come across. Lovable, sympathetic, and peculiar are appropriate adjectives to describe Milo - however, the charm of the entire story is how Matthew Dicks was able to create Milo, because if we ever run across a Milo in real-life and his oddities were exposed we would rarely take the time to get know the actual person. Matthew Dicks shows us (in a very sophisticated way) that just because someone seems completely insane (and may in fact have a true mental disorder) it does not necessarily define them as a person.

I was put off by some unnecessary vulgarity sprinkled throughout the story, but as a whole "Unexpectedly Milo" is very well written. The story is very tight (especially for humor) and the character (and really there is only Milo) is very well-defined.

Final verdict - "Unexpectedly Milo" may not be for everyone (at times the requirements of his OCD made my skin crawl in anticipation of him doing the task) but is certainly well-worth your consideration. As for me... I will by checking out a few of Matthew Dicks other books.

5 Stars
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"Unexpectedly, Milo" follows Something Missing: A Novel and proves that Matthew Dicks is a name to be watching for. By stages heartwarming, quirky, humorous and, at times, somewhat uncomfortable, it leads us through a voyage of self-discovery with Milo Slades as he confronts his life head-on due to the crisis of his marriage breaking up.

Milo has basically lived his whole life in secrecy, hiding his obsessive needs, like opening jelly jars, bowling a strike, singing "99 Luftballoons," watching the same movies over and over while expecting the ending to be different this time, and tricking people into saying a specific word that has popped into his head. But Milo is not the only quirky character we meet in this delightful voyage - he meet his clients (he's a home health-care worker), such as Edith who has him rake her shag rug. There are others, but I don't want to spoil the surprise.

When Milo discovers a videocamera and several videotapes in the park and watches them, he discovers that the woman who filmed them (as a video diary) has some very dark secrets, including her fear and belief that a friend she helped run away when they were 13 is probably dead as a result. Milo discovers some new information and decides to try to track down the friend and it is through this journey that he truly begins to discover that maybe who he is shouldn't be hidden away so deeply after all.

I can heartily endorse this book as a truly wonderful read for just about anyone. Give it a try!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I wasn't prepared for this book to be so good. I absolutely couldn't put it down. Milo is such an endearing character...I just love him. He, like all of us, tries to keep his flaws hidden from everyone, but his OCD overwhelms him at times. Even if you don't suffer from compulsions of any kind, you will be able to relate to this man and his quirks. This book is written like we think...not like we say and it was so entertaining. Following Milo's bumpy road of a marriage and his search for "Freckles" friend is like Mr. Toad's wild ride, but such an enjoyable journey! I have ordered more books by this author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Quirky characters are a staple of fiction; most writers believe it's more rewarding to create dysfunctional characters than seemingly normal ones. Milo Slade, the title character in Matthew Dicks' ultra-quirky novel, Unexpectedly, Milo, has more than his share of issues. Suffering from a super-charged version of obsessive-compulsive disorder (although one that requires creativity and excellent problem-solving skills, as Milo acknowledges), Milo is randomly struck by strange compulsions: the need to bowl a strike, open a sealed jelly jar, sing 99 Red Balloons at a karaoke bar (in German, no less), or crack ice cubes from an ice cube tray. If he doesn't perform these "demands," the pressure in his head gets worse and worse, sometimes splintering into multiple compulsions. (Milo felt as if the demands were "programmed" by a German U-boat commander who becomes more and more frustrated when his orders aren't obeyed.)

As if handling this problem isn't enough, Milo's marriage to Christine is suffering, partially because he is hiding his disorder from her. She has asked for space, he finds an apartment, only to find out that she just wanted him to sleep over at a friend's house for a week or two. And then he finds a camcorder in the park with a bag of videotapes. On these tapes is a mystery woman's video diary, in which she expresses regret for causing a friend's death and divulges other sadnesses in her life. Milo watches long enough to find out who she is (and develops a bit of a crush on her), and then goes on a mission to right one of the wrongs she mentions in the videos.

I wanted to love this book. I really did. The description of Milo's disorder was really vivid and I can only imagine the pain and anxiety he must have felt dealing with it on a day-to-day basis. But after a while, his quirks became too numerous to bear and it was hard to identify with him or follow his motivation for certain actions. I felt more like the frustrated Christine, wondering exactly what made Milo tick. The book was well-written, and I enjoyed many of the supporting characters, but in the end, I just needed space from Milo.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 14, 2010
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In his second novel, Unexpectedly, Milo, Matthew Dicks tells the story of Milo, a 30-something home health care aide who's been living a lie since childhood. When we meet him his marriage is troubled, principally because he and his wife are inherently incompatible, but also because their relationship is based on a fiction: Milo has never let his status-conscious wife know who he really is. She can just about stand her husband driving around on a moped and playing Dungeons and Dragons with his nerdy friends, but she is unlikely to accept the fact that he is routinely plagued by the need to satisfy random urges--harmless but strange things like being compelled to open Smuckers jelly jars or to sing "99 Luftballoons" at a karaoke bar or to let all the air out of his tires. Thus for all the years of their courtship and marriage Milo has satisfied his urges on the sly. When Unexpectedly, Milo opens, our hero's life is about to change in a big way. Not only is his marriage in crisis, but Milo also makes an unlikely discovery: he finds a stranger's video diary and camera on a park bench. Viewing the videos leads to Milo taking a road trip south. Thus we first meet him in a Burger King parking lot off of I-95, south of Washington, DC, surreptitiously opening the Smuckers jars he had stashed in his trunk.

Anyone who's read Matthew Dicks's Something Missing will recognize similar elements in this story: an unlikely hero with a secret life and obsessive compulsive tendencies sets out to save a stranger with whom he feels an intimate connection. Milo and Martin--the protagonist of Something Missing--are both hugely likable characters with sweet stories that end well. I enjoyed Something Missing a bit more than Unexpectedly, Milo, however, because Martin's career and problems were more interesting to me than Milo's. Also, Unexpectedly, Milo seems a bit repetitive at times. But on the whole the book is an enjoyable read. I'm very glad to have discovered a new author whose books (and blog posts) I will continue to look forward to.

-- Debra Hamel
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 14, 2010
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Unexpectedly, Milo is the charming sequel to Something Missing, which introduced the eccentric and empathetic Milo Slade. Milo's life is driven by irresistible compulsions to do things like bowl a strike, free ice cubes from their tray, open jars of Smucker's Grape Jelly, and crunch Weeble toys in the door. Milo's life is a balance between shame and embarrassment at his affliction and the physical and emotional release he feels when he succumbs to his mind's demands.

Unexpectedly, Milo finds Milo newly separated from his wife and living alone in a small apartment. He is disconcerted to discover he misses the stability and predictability of being married more than he misses his wife. One day, Milo finds a video camera and tapes in the park, and discovers that the tapes are the video diaries of an attractive young woman. Telling himself that he will watch the tapes only to identify the owner, Milo quickly becomes engrossed in her story and decides to try to help the young woman by solving a secret from her past.

Milo takes a physical journey from Connecticut to Chisholm, NC, and emotional journey when he has no choice but to share the story of his compulsions with a new acquaintance and traveling companion. Milo finds that friends can accept him and his oddities, and may even have a few oddities of their own. The story doesn't end in a predictable neat way, but in a pleasurable, satisfactory manner that hopefully sets Milo up for a new book.

Unexpectedly, Milo is a great book from start to finish. Milo's eccentricities and empathy makes for a multi-faceted character that can be believably involved in many different situations. This is one of those stories that leaves you happier at the end for having read it.
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