Saturday, June 6, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: "Bitter Milk"

Bitter Milk
By John McManus
Copyright 2005
Picador Publishing
Adult Fiction
1 ½ Bookmarks

Weird, weird, weird. This entire book is written from the perspective of an invisible friend (or maybe it’s a dead twin, or a multiple personality…it’s never really clear which one it is), which was kind of interesting. But the flow of the book really bothered me. It’s written as sort of a stream of consciousness exercise. No breaks in the story at all (read “no chapters”!) And the dialogue is not offset with quotation marks, which was really odd to me at first, but since it’s the invisible friend relaying the entire story including who said what, I suppose that explains why.

This is a story about Loren, a young boy facing some very interesting issues in his everyday life. His mother wishes she were a man, he is very overweight due to the fact that for 11 years he’s been feeding his insecurities with the world (not helped by the narrator of the book, Luther, who is constantly demeaning and belittling Loren), and he doesn’t know what is wrong with his mother. Loren doesn’t fit in at school and he doesn’t fit in with his eclectic (at best) extended family. When his grandmother dies and then his mother disappears without a word, Loren is forced to find his way on his own for the first time in his life.

The best part about the book was watching Loren transform into a person of substance. He decides to do something about his weight. He decides to ignore Luther’s rumblings in his brain. He goes on his own looking for his mother. He decides to choose who he will associate with in his very, very messed-up family. You almost had to like the kid for a few pages there. Set in the backwards hills of East Tennessee, this book is a glimpse at what lack of education could do to a person.

The worst part about this book was that it really had no point. In the end I asked myself “why in the world did I just read this?” I hate it when that happens.

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