cover image The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time

The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time

Steven Sherrill. John F. Blair, $26.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-89587-673-7

Sixteen years ago Sherrill cast the minotaur of Greek mythology as M, a sympathetic everyman holding down a dead-end job as a fry cook, in The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break. In this bittersweet sequel, M’s circumstances have changed but his prospects have not improved. Now a Civil War reenactor in Old Scald Village, a sleepy Pennsylvania rust-belt town, M slogs through a daily routine of dying on the battlefield for the entertainment of pitifully small crowds of tourists. Though he’s accepted as a regular by the townspeople, M still feels isolated from those around him—“Human behavior never really surprises him,” he thinks in a very telling moment—and he longs for intimacy like a bachelor too shy to ask for a date (which he is). Hope arrives when Holly, a sassy out-of-towner taking care of her “damaged brother,” catches his fancy—but that hope is sorely challenged by the ensuing madcap mishaps that conspire to keep them apart. Sherrill populates his novel with a colorful cast of weirdos and eccentrics who wouldn’t be out of place in a screwball comedy, including a chain saw carver of tourist-bait statuary, reenactors who approach their work with the intensity of method actors, and the Guptas, the friendly immigrant proprietors of the Judy-Lou Motor Lodge that M calls home, whose foreignness resonates with his own feelings as an outsider. They are all comic foils to M, whose reflections on his incongruous modern life speaks volumes about the human condition even though “Unngh” is nearly his only spoken expression. Readers unfamiliar with Sherrill’s first novel will still appreciate the wit and poignancy of this follow-up. (Sept.)