MILK by Darcey Steinke
Kirkus Star


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A slim novel from Steinke (Jesus Saves, 1997, etc.) follows three lonely souls in Brooklyn seeking love and a connection with the infinite.

Mary, Walter and John all have their crosses to bear. Mary is a new mother, and her husband, an aloof hipster, is cheating on her. Her friend Walter is a gay Episcopalian priest exiled from his Manhattan church to a Brooklyn parish after he wrote a compromising letter to a teenaged boy who’d captured his heart, while the priest’s true love, the late Carlos, is now just a box of ash. And John has just left a monastery, 15 years after entering it in the wake of his pregnant wife’s death. All three characters are seized with an urge to understand God’s way of working in their daily lives. Things begin at Christmastime, when Mary leaves her husband after sleeping with John, whom she met in a local coffeeshop, to come live with Walter. Walter, especially lonely for Carlos during the holiday, has a series of unfulfilling sexual encounters in Manhattan bars and beds. John finds a more affordable apartment and wishes Mary would share it. That’s about it for plot, since the real glory here lies not in action but in Steinke’s ability to combine the mundane and the divine so gracefully. We read that, for Walter, “all through his life, things outside the church were just as holy as the crosses and statues inside,” and, indeed, love, sex, and god all keep close company here. New mother Mary is hungry for sexual contact with her husband; Walter frequents Internet S&M Web sites; John feels closer to God after leaving his order and becoming physically intimate with Mary. But this is no soft-focus fable. Walter, after finding Mary praying in the closet a dozen times, can’t help but wish that she’d go on Zoloft in order to get along more easily in the human realm.

A lyrical and earthy meditation on the limits and glories of being human.

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 2005
ISBN: 1-58234-529-5
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2004


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