A New York Times Notable Book of the Year.
Shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize, Hot Milk moves "gracefully among pathos, danger, and humor" (The New York Times).
I have been sleuthing my mother's symptoms for as long as I can remember. If I see myself as an unwilling detective with a desire for justice, is her illness an unsolved crime? If so, who is the villain and who is the victim?
Sofia, a young anthropologist, has spent much of her life trying to solve the mystery of her mother's unexplainable illness. She is frustrated with Rose and her constant complaints, but utterly relieved to be called to abandon her own disappointing fledgling adult life. She and her mother travel to the searing, arid coast of southern Spain to see a famous consultant--their very last chance--in the hope that he might cure her unpredictable limb paralysis.
But Dr. Gomez has strange methods that seem to have little to do with physical medicine, and as the treatment progresses, Sofia's mother's illness becomes increasingly baffling. Sofia's role as detective--tracking her mother's symptoms in an attempt to find the secret motivation for her pain--deepens as she discovers her own desires in this transient desert community.
Hot Milk is a profound exploration of the sting of sexuality, of unspoken female rage, of myth and modernity, the lure of hypochondria and big pharma, and, above all, the value of experimenting with life; of being curious, bewildered, and vitally alive to the world.
"Is Donald Duck a child or hormonal teenager or an immature adult? Or is he all of those things at the same time, like I probably am?" These questions come from the memorable heroine of Booker-finalist Levy's (Swimming Home) novel: 25-year-old Sofia, who instead of pursuing her anthropology Ph.D. works in a coffee shop in London and spends much of her time caring for her sick and complaining mother, Rose. The two have traveled to arid Almer a on Spain's southern coast to visit the renowned but unorthodox Dr. Gomez, a fitting choice, since Rose's ailment is baffling to everyone, including Sofia. While in Almer a, Sofia experiences an awakening: she meets the alluring Ingrid, gets stung by jellyfish, and becomes bolder in the face of her mother's oppressiveness. There is light mystery in the beautiful locale involving some potentially dangerous characters, and the story might be best described as The Magus as written by Lorrie Moore. But it's Sofia's frantic, vulnerable voice that makes this novel a singular read. Her offbeat and constantly surprising perspective treats the reader to writing such as "we dressed as though there weren't a dead snake in the room" and "unfinished hotels... had been hacked into the mountains like a murder." Levy has crafted a great character in Sofia, and witnessing a pivotal point in her life is a pleasure.