When it comes to endearingly odd protagonists, no one beats Matthew Dicks. In his first novel, Something Missing, he introduced readers to Martin, a cat burglar with OCD leanings, who made his living through petty theft, pilfering rolls of toilet paper, half-used bottles of salad dressing, postage stamps and the occasional big ticket item—like a rarely used crystal gravy boat—to sell on eBay. Now in Unexpectedly, Milo, Dicks introduces Milo Slade, a man who makes Martin look downright normal.
Ever since a childhood party at which Milo was overcome with the unbearable urge to pop his friend’s birthday balloons (an event that did not go over well at all), Milo has been grappling not only with bizarre and undeniable demands, he’s also struggled with keeping his peculiar compulsions hidden from the world. Married for several years, Milo has prided himself on keeping his intermittent needs to bowl a strike, pop open jars of jams, or occasionally belt out “99 Luftballons” karaoke-style a secret from his wife. Unfortunately for Milo, his preoccupation with keeping his true self locked away means he’s missed many of the warning signs that his wife has been increasingly exasperated with their marriage—that is until she tells him they need some time apart. Initially unable to fathom such a drastic departure from the comfortable life he is established, Milo eventually begins to revel in the liberty of being able to indulge his behavioral quirks without fear. In fact, soon enough Milo finds he has more important things on his mind that reconciling with his wife when he stumbles across an abandoned video camera in the park. On a whim, Milo begins to watch the accompanying tapes, which turn out to be a deeply personal video diary, in which a woman Milo affectionately dubs “Freckles” unburdens her deepest secrets and fears. Before he has time to second guess himself, Milo finds himself on a journey to find Freckles and return her tapes, while also doing his part to help her see that the truth can set her free. If only such absolution were possible for Milo himself.
Reading a Matthew Dicks novel always proves to be an unadulterated joy, and Unexpectedly, Milo, is no exception. Dicks’ gift lies in his ability to take superficially eccentric characters and dig beneath their peculiarities to develop full-bodied, lovable human beings. Rather than feeling gimmicky, Dicks' approach to his his characters’ off-center habits provides insight into broader truths on human nature and the things that make us tick. Readers join Milo on a riveting and tender voyage into the heart of insecurity—the fear we all carry inside us that no one will ever truly accept us for who we are. Filled with humor and sweetness, Unexpectedly, Milo reminds us that happiness can be found in the strangest of places.