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Bitter Milk    by John McManus order for
Bitter Milk
by John McManus
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Loren is nine years old. He lives at the base of a mountain in Tennessee. Loren is fat. His mother wishes she were a man and is ostracized by her family. Loren's father is unknown. Luther is, in his own way, also unknown. He lives inside Loren. Or beside him. Or around him. No one is sure.

Loren's family is unconventional. His MawMaw has just died. His aunt and uncle are trying to convince PawPaw to sell his land so the whole family can make some money big money. This entrancing story is told in Luther's all knowing voice. Luther tracks Loren, watching him as he grows more aware of himself, and able to fend for himself. Loren is learning to drink and fight and stand up for himself. Luther's counseling of Loren grows dimmer, as Loren ages quickly.

The thought-provoking Bitter Milk is John McManus' first novel, though he previously published two short story collections, Born on a Train and Stop Breaking Down. He is the youngest-ever recipient of the Whiting Writers' Award (in 2000). He has been called 'an important new voice in Southern literature.' McManus is a writer who has stepped out of the box to write life as he sees it, as unusual as that life might be.

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