I was lucky enough to win a proof copy of What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor through Twitter.
The story is about a young boy who quite literally sees things a little differently. Milo has retinitis pigmentosa, which means he sees the world through a pinhole and one day will go completely blind. While it leaves him unable to take part in normal childhood activities like riding a bike, it does mean he sees the world far more closely than we might.
Despite this, the story is not centred around Milo’s eye condition – the title is far more encompassing. His view on the world is mature in many ways: he doesn’t want his gran to go into a nursing home; he wants to look after her, even though he is only nine years old. Yet in other ways, he shows his young age – he does not fully understand her dementia.
However, he has a child’s clear notion of right and wrong, which means that when he sees questionable practices at his gran’s nursing home, he wants the world to see the truth too. Can he get his gran back home in time for Christmas?
The novel switches viewpoints between several of the main characters, which allows the story to touch on many different, important issues. It was an effective way to show how all of us see the big picture in different ways – through our own pinhole, if you will. Milo’s gran, Lou, can feel her age and see how Milo is trying to care for her, but wants to take responsibility for herself. Sandy, Milo’s mum, is coming to terms with the breakdown of her marriage. And Tripi, who works at the nursing home, is dealing with the heartbreaking situation of having escaped war-torn Syria, not knowing what has happened to his sister.
The characters all have their own stories and secrets, and yet ‘honest’ is one of the words I would use to describe the book. The story is told simply, but doesn’t shy away from the difficult parts.
This was an enjoyable read, with humorous and teary-eyed moments. There were no plot twists or shocks – although for some reason it took me a few chapters to realise Hamlet’s true nature! – but it didn’t need it. Not many books can achieve a fairy-tale quality at the same time as seeming realistic, but What Milo Saw is one of them.