If you are looking for a break from the current glut of dystopia novels than check out What Milo Saw by Virginia MacGregor, which is a heart-warming and engaging story centred around 9-year-old Milo.
Despite suffering from an eye disease which has left him with only pinhole sight, his depth of vision of the world around him exceeds that of the adults whom surround him.
As his gran, Lou, is put into a nursing home by his struggling mother only Milo can see the suffering and criminal acts carried out by Nurse Thornhill. Along with his pet pig, Hamlet, Milo sets out to expose the nursing home ‘Forget Me Not’ and free his gran from the misery.
Hamlet is a wonderfully crafted animal-character and I never imaged a pig would worm its way into my heart. Lovingly close to Milo’s gran, he snuggles next to Lou to keep her warm, raises the alarm in face of danger. Initially bought by his now absent father, Hamlet became Milo’s life-saver following his diagnosis about his eyes and impending blindness.
Alone to start with, Milo’s naive assumption that he can make a difference helps him to develop some unusual allies.
One is Al, the undercover journalist and also a relation. Al refuses to pander to Milo’s disability rather empowering him with advice on how to gather evidence.
To me more interesting is Tripi, a Syrian refugee who works as a chef at the nursing home and is astounded by the cultural differences compared to those in his country regarding the treatment of elderly relatives.
The story is bang up to date with the inclusion of Tripi, saved from certain death in Syria and now living and working (illegally) in the UK.
Tripi is initially an unwilling ally to young Milo, who helps him not only with accommodation away from the park bench but also helps him in his efforts to seek out his long lost sister. Tripi’s overwhelming sorrow is losing his sister as they fled Syria and he does not know whether she is alive or dead. With a few deft sentences Virginia MacGregor captures the warmth and exotic nature of Tripi’s former life in Syria; my senses were awakened through the descriptions of the food and country.
Sandy, Milo’s mother, gradually develops from a rather stereotypical overworked single mother to one facing much more complex issues and with time the empathy and understanding for her grows as she herself adjusts to the truth of her situation and becomes aware of her own emerging strength and independence.
Each chapter of the book is written through the viewpoint of one of the main characters. Although in the third-person this is still a very personable and individualistic approach that works well throughout and brings the story neatly towards its resolution.
This touching book is simpler than many in this cross-over genre of fiction / YA, with a relatively uncomplicated sub-plot.
However, I thoroughly enjoyed the softer tones of the book, not squirming from the injustices of life, the difficulties of relationships, living life with a disability. I fell for the warmth and innocent caring spirit of Milo and I will remember him and his eclectic mixture of family and friends (not forgetting Hamlet) long after I finished the book.
Overall I found it an uplifting story and one I would highly recommend.
This review is out later than usual owing to holiday commitments. My apologies.
Release date: 13th August 2015
Price: £ 3.85 (paperback – Amazon) £ 4.99 (kindle – Amazon)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars