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Unexpectedly, Milo: A Novel Paperback – August 3, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Dicks offers another neurotic romp (after Something Missing), this one about a Connecticut home nurse and closet OCD sufferer who, recently separated from his uptight wife, satisfies the demands of his disorder by, among other things, flipping open jars of grape jelly and singing German pop music. Among Milo Slade's geriatric patients are a man dependent on Viagra for his addiction to Internet pornography and a woman who makes Milo rake her shag carpeting. Milo, meanwhile, stumbles onto a cache of videotapes that form a mysterious woman's video diary. In it, she confesses her secrets and talks about the guilt she carries around about a childhood friend named Tess who disappeared and is, the woman believes, dead. The story prompts Milo to take a road trip to North Carolina to find Tess, and though it upsets his routine, he is finally forced to share the demands of his disorder with someone else, which changes his rather grave perspective on life. Despite exhaustive commentary after every demand takes hold, Milo proves to be a pretty charming character, even if a lot of the intended humor gets buried beneath his suffering. (Aug.)
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"An adventure of a summer read you’ll never put down." -Daily Candy
Reading a Matthew Dicks novel always proves to be an unadulterated joy, and Unexpectedly, Milo, is no exception. Dicks’ gift lies in his ability to take superficially eccentric characters and dig beneath their peculiarities to develop full-bodied, lovable human beings. Rather than feeling gimmicky, Dicks' approach to his his characters’ off-center habits provides insight into broader truths on human nature and the things that make us tick. Readers join Milo on a riveting and tender voyage into the heart of insecurity—the fear we all carry inside us that no one will ever truly accept us for who we are. Filled with humor and sweetness, Unexpectedly, Milo reminds us that happiness can be found in the strangest of places. --BookPage
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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.
Milo is the sympathetic character in the beginning of the novel. He has these odd, but seemingly harmless obsessions. Viewing Milo's wife through his eyes, the reader at first can only imagine her as entirely unreasonable. But as you start to understand how Milo allows his obsessions to dominate every waking minute of his life, you start to have a little more sympathy for Christine. By the time Milo wants to let all the air out of the tires of his car, you have a full sense of what an annoying person he would be to have around. Milo has not even told Christine about his UBoat Captain, and that was really unfair. I liked the marriage counselor sessions in the beginning and I wish the author had let the truth of Milo's marriage reveal itself in the story instead of having Tess blurt the whole thing out. Trust me, I'll get it.
So, Christine is in this marriage with a guy who can only think about himself and his need to follow the next whim of his fancy from snapping open jelly jars to singing karaoke. Milo tells us that these impulses present themselves as the dictates of a UBoat captain and that he has no alternative but to follow them. Not so, Milo. Adults learn to inhibit some of their impulses. What is going to happen when the UBoat captain tells Milo to do something that isn't harmless? The point is very directly raised by the story about Tess Bryson, the woman who was abused as a child by her father, whose UBoat captain moved beyond jelly jars. I assumed that the irony of Tess saying to Milo that he was not at fault for giving in to the increasing demands of his undisciplined mind was intended. The parallel between Tess's father and Milo's situation cannot be ignored in the context of this story, but the author does ignore it.
I think it would have been a more interesting book if the darker side of an obsessive compulsive disorder had been pursued. By the end of the novel, I had lost all sympathy for Milo. I think the novel needed to deal with the reason for that. Milo is not just a cute eccentric; his has abdicated responsibility for his actions. He has squandered his life and caused unhappiness all around him.
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I don't know why, because it was an excellent book.Read more