cover image Hot Milk

Hot Milk

Deborah Levy. Bloomsbury, $26 (224p) ISBN 978-1-62040-669-4

“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 Almería 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 Almería, 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. (July)