The story of M, the minotaur of Greek legend.
Turns out he didn’t get stomped by Theseus as we were originally told, but in fact paid him off and snuck off
into the world to live a new life. This debut novel by Steven Sherrill takes this twist to its conclusion and
finds M as a short order cook in a diner somewhere in the South East of the US 5,000 years on.
Lucky for M he can’t remember much of his past life, so the vague stirrings of long lost memories don’t
disturb him too much – nowadays he’s more bothered about skin care, finding clothes that fit and making sure
he doesn’t get in anyone’s way. Slowly he’s drifted to the margins of society yet again, skirting the main
stream and finding a place for himself amongst life’s flotsam and jetsam in trailer parks, scrap yards,
logging teams and out of town strips.
M is the quintessential outsider. He’s lived everywhere in the world at least once, yet he’s never
fully mastered any of the languages and has never found himself a home. The sense of loneliness, of
wanting to belong, is palpable. M has a genuine desire just to get along – something he’s never allowed
to do, even though both he and the people around him have long forgotten the legends that created him.
The sense of detail in this novel is fantastic – M’s life and actions are described in minute detail,
bringing M more and more to life as the book goes on. Given I’m a sucker for novels with this level of
detail and also for the intense magical realism of books like this and The Bear Comes Home you
can understand why I loved this book.
Not only do you believe in M, you really feel for him. Throughout the book Sherrill builds the depth
of the characters in parallel with a plot that while seeming to meander in fact consistently builds
tension to an unforeseen and ultimately heartwarming climax. All in all you find yourself dragged in
and dragged along by the story, by the detail, by the characters.
If I was to have any criticism for the book it would have to be that this is Sherrill’s first
novel, yet he’s been teaching creative writing for a long time. I only found this out after I’d
finished the book, and suddenly a few things snapped into place. Here, clearly, is a man who feels
forced to practice what he preaches, and I’m afraid that you can tell. Having said that, mind, if
any of his students turned out work half as good as this I’m sure they too would be successful.
This is a quality book – one I was sad to finish. Do yourselves two favours – buy this book direct from the publisher, and at the same
time sign up to their mailing list. Both
acts will bring you joy.