Author: James E. McTeer II
Number of Pages: 227
Genre: Literary Fiction
It was the cover of this book that caught my interest when I came across it in the local library. I checked it out after only skimming the description, lacking a clear idea of what it was about. I ended up enjoying it, though, which proves that judging a book by its cover occasionally pays off. Minnow is set in South Carolina during a time period that remained unclear to me throughout, but seemed like it was probably either the late 1800’s or the early 1900’s. It tells the story of a little boy named Minnow who goes off on a dangerous quest to acquire the medicine necessary to save his dying father.
What starts of as a simple trip to the pharmacist’s turns into a long and arduous adventure when a local witch doctor named Dr. Crow sends Minnow to go to the outlying islands a long distance from his family’s home and collect some ‘goofer dust’ from a extremely powerful witch doctor’s unmarked grave. Tormented by monsters that hide in wait underwater, vicious boars, and a deadly approaching storm and accompanied by a loyal stray dog who joins him on his travels, Minnow must gather up every bit of bravery and resilience he has in order to survive.
I had a little trouble getting into this book because I generally prefer novels that have more focus on character development, and Minnow fell short in that department. Minnow is supposed to be a small child, but he certainly doesn’t act like one. He’s almost single-mindedly heroic, with little room for nuance, and while I found him easy to root for I also felt he lacked depth. The novel also could have probably used more black characters who weren’t exceedingly mystical. Almost all of them were either mysterious witch doctors, tribesmen, or existed in the story primarily to help Minnow on his journey and offer him advice.
I also found multiple grammatical and spelling errors that could have easily been corrected if the book’s editor had been paying more attention. I caught a few continuity errors, including one scene that made me laugh where a character looks at a man’s headless corpse and asks Minnow “Is he dead?” However, I did say I liked this book overall and that was because of the strong sense of setting and the author’s excellent sense of pacing. The descriptions of the book’s setting could be slightly repetitive at times, it felt like the author started to run out of ways to describe trees and bodies of water.
Nevertheless I really liked the overall feeling I got from the mental picture the author painted for me. He was also very good at building suspense and making the you want to keep reading. I think James E. McTeer II has a lot of potential as a writer and I’d like to see him eventually write something new. I’m definitely interested to see how he develops as a writer, I think he has a lot of room to improve in certain areas (like the way he writes his characters) but I honestly do think he’s talented, and obviously willing to write things that feel markedly different from most other stuff out there.