by Matthew Dicks
Milo Slade's life is dominated by strange demands that he can't share with others. Demands like opening jars of Smuckers grape jelly for the satisfying 'pop'. Singing '99 Luftballoons' karaoke-style. The need to hear a certain word in conversation - words like placebo, that aren't likely to crop up casually. His desire to hide these demands puts a great strain on his life; for example, Milo has been lying to his wife since their very first date to hide these demands. Now that she's asking for a separation, and it seems unlikely reconciliation will happen the longer they live apart.
To further complicate things, Milo discovered a video diary in the park and feels strongly that he needs to return it to the owner. But there was no identification on the videos, so the only way he'll find her is if he watches the videos, invading her privacy. As each 'episode' unfolds, Milo realizes the woman is haunted by demons that she can't share with anyone else, but he may be able to help. He sets off on a road trip to help this young woman by unraveling a decades-old mystery, and along the way is forced to confront his own problems.
Unexpectedly, Milo is a really fun read. It's tempting to try to say "This is a humor book" or "This is a mystery story" but the plot really has a little bit of everything. Sometimes it's really funny. There are a ton of quotes that are just delightful to extract and share out of context. This one I liked so much I just had to post it on Twitter**:
"Mistakes such as misidentifying your own penis were ones Milo had tried desperately to avoid since childhood."
The characters are great; each one is sympathetic in his or her own way. Milo's repetition and obsession over some of his demands can get a little annoying, but it's the way he is and he can't seem to do anything to control it, so you just accept it as his quirk and move on. His wife comes off as an irrational bitch, but the woman's been lied to for her entire marriage, so that seems quite justified. In the end, everyone's just a little screwed up, after all.
4 out of 5 stars
**Yes, I now have a Twitter account. Follow me? I don't update much so I promise I won't overwhelm you with inane “OMG someone farted!” commentary.