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.

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