Thursday, March 14, 2013

Unexpectedly Milo

Unexpectedly Milo, by Matthew Dicks

This was another "scan the library bookshelves" find, a quirky story about a thirtysomething man (Milo Slade) who has an unususal form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It manifests itself in making strange demands on his brain and taking over his life until he satisfies them. For example, a word will pop into his head and his obsession will not go away until someone spontaneously says this word. Or he will suddenly have the need to pop the seals on grape jelly jars, bowl a strike, see a movie he's watched several times before, let all the air out of his tires, or sing a karaoke version of "99 Luftballons" in German (remember that song from the '80s?) in front of an audience. And he keeps all this a secret from everyone.

As you can imagine, his marriage was not terribly successful. When the novel begins, he and his wife Christine have separated, although it seems that neither of them are convinced that's what they really want. Milo is a home health care nurse and seems to have a stronger relationship with his patients than he does with his wife (who of course knows nothing of his disorder but probably just thinks he's weird).

One day Milo finds a video camera with a bag of tapes under a park bench. He returns the next day to find them still there, so he takes them home and begins watching the videos. They're made by a grieving young woman he initially coins "Freckles," and she has a lot of secrets, too. Milo is determined to help this woman feel better by solving one of her problems. He takes off on a road trip to North Carolina to find a friend of hers, who had vanished 20+ years earlier.

This journey makes Milo realize that he's not the only one who is a bit odd and he's also not the only one hiding secrets. He begins to reveal more of himself and understand what he really wants and doesn't want out of his life.

After awhile, the demands did get a bit annoying to read about...I suppose Milo felt far worse. I wonder if this is a real type of OCD, or if it's something the author made up. I had a hard time understanding why Milo didn't want to get help for this problem of his--it would have driven me crazy! I didn't feel particularly sympathetic to Milo because of the way he detached himself from others through his secrets. My favorite part of the novel was when he met with one of his elderly clients, who were all far more honest and genuine than Milo himself.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Veil of Roses

Veil of Roses, by Laura Fitzgerald

I'm easily drawn into stories that take place in different countries or cultures, such as this novel about a young woman who leaves Iran to come to the U.S., determined to find a man to marry so she can immigrate permanently.

Tamila Soroush arrives in Arizona to visit her sister and her husband and study English...although her primary purpose is to get hitched. Her sister is determined to find her a good Persian husband...within 3 months. She befriends the others in her English class and meets Ike, a barista at a nearby Starbucks. As you can guess, she falls in love with Ike...not one of the nice Persian men she's supposed to marry. 

What really bothered me about this book was that Tamila seems to speak near-perfect English. She only makes one error in her English conversation, which is to use the word "foots" instead of "feet." What is particularly strange about this is that she also uses words and expressions such as "clandestine," "incorrigible," "somehow I doubt that," corrupted," "what-ever (emphasis on the 'ever'), "that's for sure," and "crazy as a loon." I taught English as a foreign language for three years, and very few new English speakers speak like this...and I'm guessing they don't teach English in school in Iran! The prose is flowery and overdone at times, such as "(My smile) is Julia Roberts huge, only by now, it is all mine and it is for real. And it does not need to be surgically corrected." 

The plot is predictable, but that's expected for this kind of book (the cover, after all, is pink), but the ending was a bit different than what I expected.  It was an easy read, and sometimes that's okay...but it could have been so much more.