Blair Publisher 2016
Sixteen years have passed since Steven Sherrill first introduced us to “M,” the selfsame Minotaur from Greek mythology, transplanted to the modern American South, in the critically acclaimed The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break. M has moved north now, from a life of kitchens and trailer parks, to that of Civil War re-enactor at a run-down living history park in the dying blue-collar rustbelt of central Pennsylvania. Though he dies now, in uniform, on a regular basis, M’s world, his daily struggles, remain unchanged. Isolation. Loneliness. Other-ness.
Shepherded, cared for by the Guptas (the immigrant family who runs the motel where he lives, outsiders in their own right) and tolerated by his neighbors, by most of his coworkers at Old Scald Village, but tormented by a few, M wants only to find love and understanding. The serendipitous arrival of Holly and her damaged brother, halted on their own journey of loss, stirs hope in the Minotaur’s life. As their paths overlap we find ourselves rooting for the old bull as he stumbles toward a real live human relationship.
“Sherrill gives his Minotaur a forlorn Buster Keaton dignity. M has a silent film’s starring role in the midst of a country-and-western talkie. Precisely by limiting the beast to deeds, not speech, the writer eventually creates―against all odds―a living hybridized contradiction. M, if stuck in the quicksand of our ticky-tack present, somehow still participates in the silent scale of myth.” — Allan Gurganus, The New York Times
Sherrill writes with knowing affection of folk knowledge, home repairs and the roadside attractions that Tom Robbins popularized. He enjoys mixing the mundane with the ghoulish, echoing certain cave-depths of John Gardner’s heroic “Grendel.” By the end, M seems like a naturalized American — and, like America itself, something of a laid-off myth. The creature most feared has become one more underpaid historical re-enactor. Aren’t we all? — Kirkus Reviews