';I wake up and remember,' begins Theodora Mapes, the narrator of Emily Hammond's first novel. What follows is the story of Theo's journey from Colorado to California in search of the truth about her past. Separated from her husband and newly pregnant, Theo has come back to California looking for answers, not only about herself, but also about her mother who committed suicide when Theo was a child. Answers that much include the circumstances of the mysterious death of an infant sister, Charlotte, so many years ago. In California, she reconnects with family members, her dotty and distant father, her Aunt Lyla, the sister of Theo's dead mother, and Theo's older brother, Corb, who is upright and successful, and determined to keep the door of their past firmly closed. Old friends resurface, in particular Gregg, a former boyfriend whose sexy and reliable presence offers Theo comfort. Within this tangled thicket, Theo finds herself increasingly drawn to solving the mysteries of her childhood. ';Why would a baby die?' Our father gave the same long drawn-out explanation each time, about how children in the olden days weren't as healthy as you kids nowand then he would list the illnesses. Diphtheria, scarlet fever, smallpox, influenza, consumption: I always listened for the name of our sister's disease, wondering what she had, why she had died. Only once did I get up the courage to ask: did Charlotte have diphtheria or influenza? No, my father said, looking as solemn as I'd ever seen him. Sometimes babies died, he said. Died in their sleep. Impressively crafted, Milk is a complex story, by turns funny, sad, and inspiring. Award-winning short story writer Emily Hammond gives us a convincing, fresh heroine in the winning Theo who vividly examines the bonds that rattle family, past and present.
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