KIRKUS REVIEWS: "Through poems and vignettes, Brenner's moving debut memoir commemorates her son's death. Brenner began writing poetry in earnest the night 6-year-old Riley died of an arteriovenous malformation brain hemorrhage...These free verse selections, mostly written in complete sentences, rely on alliteration, assonance and striking imagery rather than straight rhyming for impact. Perspective morphs subtly, starting in the third person and moving into a more intimate first-person present, with occasional outbursts of second-person address to Riley...A noteworthy exploration of a parent's grief."
"The poems inside of this book were torn from the heart of a woman whose suffering is so immense that it could swallow her whole. Instead of letting the staggering pain consume her, Chanel Brenner crafted these undeniably gorgeous meditations on the death of her son. I read "Vanilla Milk" four times before putting it down, because I was afraid to let it go. Chanel Brenner has crafted a resplendent work of art that is unrivaled in its ability to make sense of the ebbs and flows of grief." MATTHEW LOGELIN, "New York Times" bestselling author of "Two Kisses for Maddy"
"Chanel Brenner's "Vanilla Milk" is a transcendent work. The skill and courage of these poems inspire me to be a better writer, the generosity in them inspires me to be a better person." MIA SARA, author at [PANK]
"Brenner's book joins the ranks of great elegies or lamentations for the loss of a child: Ben Jonson's poem for his son, Jan Kochanowski's "Laments," Stephane Mallarme's unfinished long poem "A Touch of Anatole," and two contemporary works-Stan Rice's "Some Lamb" and Edward Hirsch's "Gabriel." Brenner's book of poems dealing with the loss of her son Riley stands along with these great classics-art's attempt through poetry to fathom the unfathomable sorrow of suffering. "Vanilla Milk" breaks the heart, moves the soul as few books of poetry can-but, like all great art, it heals as well. You will never see the world the same way again." JACK GRAPES, author of "The Naked Eye, Method Writing, " and "Poems So Far So Far So Good So Far to Go"
""Vanilla Milk."..is a surprising blend of formats which melds a memoir to poetry...Chanel Brenner is not the first to use poems to immortalize and capture the events surrounding a child's death: Stan Rice's "Some Lamb" is one example of an outstanding synthesis of poem/memoir — and "Vanilla Milk" deserves to take its place alongside it, on the shelf of exceptional writings." MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW
"Vanilla Milk," a memoir told in poems, focuses on a mother's and family response to the sudden death of the author's six-year-old son. These elegies might be read as written snapshots forming an elegiac album, depicting how a traumatic loss alters relationships, love, and parenting, and perceptions of danger, time, and life. Characterized by unsparing honesty, clarity, and restraint, the poems explore the limits inherent in "recovering" from the grief of losing a child, and the need to continue experiencing joy. Includes a 20-page album of family photographs.