What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor
Review by Ellen
This is the story of nine-year-old Milo and his quest to work as an undercover reporter to expose the dreadful conditions at his gran’s nursing home. At least on the face of it. Really it’s a story about relationships.
A year before the book opens Milo was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, which has already robbed him of his peripheral vision and will eventually steal the rest of his sight. Running is out with its high risk of tripping and other sports are off the cards, giving a talk in front of the class makes him fear that the pupils in the fuzzy, grey zone of his vision are silently mocking him. In short Milo is different and in school that is never a good thing to be.
Milo’s difficulties making friends of his own age at school cause him to rely on his family and his best friend, his pet teacup pig, Hamlet, who follows him everywhere. Milo has an unbreakable bond with his elderly gran, for whom he has become an unofficial carer. Lou, really his dad’s gran, has remained loyal to Milo’s great grandpa and hasn’t spoken since his early death decades earlier. Gramps has a special place in Milo’s heart even though they were two generations away from meeting.
Milo’s dad always “got him” best but now he has started a new family and fallen out of Milo’s life. Milo has been left with his struggling mum, who hasn’t yet got over Andy’s departure while being blamed for it by her son. Losing his gran as well is too much for Milo to take, especially when he discovers the appalling conditions at the home created by the duplicitous Nurse Thornhill.
Enter Tripi, an illegal refugee from war-torn Syria, desperately seeking his much younger sister who vanished after a bomb blast whilst they were being smuggled out of the country. Tripi is working at the nursing home, Nurse Thornhill having turned a blind eye to his lack of documentation. Horrified by the conditions at the home but desperate to keep the job and earn enough money find Ayishah, he and Milo decide to take down Nurse Thornhill together.
The story is told through the viewpoint of its various characters, giving the reader a real insight into their thoughts; Milo’s all-consuming desire for his gran to return home versus her insight that she is becoming too unwell to rely on him, his anger towards his mother after his dad left juxtaposed against her loneliness at losing her son’s love as well as her husband’s. This book keeps you thinking and the characters stay with you long after the final page has been turned.