One hundred pages in, The Milk Chicken Bomb is one of those books where nothing happens until the end and then it’s all, CRASH! BANG! BOOM! END! Except that 200 pages later, that’s not what happens in The Milk Chicken Bomb at all. What happens is, well, nothing.
The Milk Chicken Bomb is pure 10-year-old charm; the prose jumps off the page, it sparkles. The reader inhabits an anonymous hero’s mind, from math class to comic books to daydreams that may not be daydreams after all. Wedderburn’s stream-of-consciousness prose dodges quotation marks, complete sentences and coherent plot lines. Like many of the best kid heroes in literature, the nameless narrator has no parents to get in the way of his adventures, which include but are not limited to: Hanging out with three Russian curlers, selling lemonade in the dead of winter, spying on Quebecois piano teachers and sneaking into underground games of checkers.
It’s easy to forgive Wedderburn for writing a novel with so many holes, because no fifth grader lives his life with narrative structure or complete sentences in mind. This no-name kid is always trying to leave town–by hitchhiking, walking and holding his breath until he disappears–but he never makes it out. When the kid’s life stops being funny and real fear and pain bubble to the surface, the sparkle can’t disguise all the unanswered questions. You wait until the very last page of The Milk Chicken Bomb for the CRASH! and the BOOM!, but it never explodes. (Colleen Gillis)
Fiction, 291 pgs, by Andrew Wedderburn, $21.95, Coach House Books, 401 Huron St. on bpNichol Lane, Toronto, ON, M5S 2G5, chbooks.com