MILTON'S ELEMENTS by Cordelia Strube


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 Canadian writer Strube (Alex & Zee, 1995, not reviewed) tells the story of a sensationally dysfunctional family that might give even the tabloids pause. Nothing has ever gone right for Milton, and chances are slim that they ever will. He's approaching middle age, dyslexic, and recently fired from his factory job; his only friend is retarded Winnie; his mother has always favored his older brother, Leonard; his three-year-old daughter, Ariel, was killed seven months ago in a quirky accident; and now his wife, Judith, seems ready to take a walk. No wonder that ``lately he's been thinking about killing people...Robo-cop-style,'' but then poor Milton doubts he'll ever do anything so drastic ``since he can't even kill bugs.'' And as the story, set in a gritty Canadian town near Toronto, continues, Milton's tribulations only multiply. When Judith, a grocery clerk who's been coping with grief by consulting channelers and the I Ching, flirts with another man at a party, Milton in despair hits her. She moves out, but Milton's not alone for long: Soon decorator brother Leonard, now dying from AIDS, moves in, as does sister Mandy and her two juvenile delinquent sons, all three of whom are fleeing Mandy's drunken husband Seth. Another sister, Connie, a drug addict and hooker, appears next, and then the family is completed with the arrival of their much-disliked, gun-packing mother, now recovering from bypass surgery. Milton nurses the dying Leonard and tries to cope with mother, who won't accept that Leonard's gay. A messy suicide, two gruesome deaths, and Judith's refusal to return nearly push Milton over the edge, but Mandy and sonsplus a neat self-help solutioncome to the rescue. Not badly written, but with all the unrelieved nastiness and grotesque speciousness of a TV talk showand, not surprisingly, completely unaffecting.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-88910-477-8
Page count: 283pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1995