MINNOW / PRESS
"Novelist James E. McTeer II, the grandson of the eminent scribe and legendary High Sheriff of the Lowcountry, continues his grandfather's legacy with Minnow. What a glorious legacy it is, a young boy's grand adventure in search of a magical cure through the barrier islands of the Lowcountry. I predict Minnow will become as estimable a part of the Lowcountry as the Hoodoo magic, ghosts and spirits, the haunted Gullah-geechies, Sweetgrass baskets, the Old Sheldon Church Ruins, and the art of Jonathan Greene. A fabulous tale."
—Pat Conroy, author of The Great Santini
"Minnow is an urgent novel, as stark and wild as the fairy tale deep in its bones. James McTeer writes with a white magic all his own; Minnow, the small brave boy he has summoned from a handful of grave-dust and a hurricane, will live with me for a long time to come."
—Lauren Groff, author of Arcadia
“Minnow is a gorgeous fever-dream of a novel. McTeer's story of a young boy's quest achieves a narrative drive and depth that are rare in any novel, much less a debut effort. Minnow picked me up by the scruff of the neck and carried me along as powerfully as a novel by Pat Conroy or Toni Morrison.”
—Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
"James McTeer's imagination is haunting and its way with reality disturbing and funny and joyous. I sped through the book, deep inside a genuine storyteller's spell. If a novel's chief magic is capturing the reader's mind, then this book is a spooky, brilliant debut."
—Rebecca Lee, author of Bobcat and Other Stories
"Minnow is a simple story of an uncomplicated hero, yet this richly imagined novel delivers scenes and themes that reverberate all the way back to Dante and Homer. On his unholy quest through the islands off South Carolina, young Minnow battles Mediterranean-sized monsters and hellish storms, and leaves a path that maps a mythical and mysterious Southern wilderness now lost forever. McTeer has created an unforgettable character and a strange American underworld, and with unabashed tenderness leaves his distinct mark on storytelling in the South."
—Lydia Netzer, author of How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky
Kirkus Reviews - Starred Review:
"A young boy sets out on an almost mythical quest through a vividly imagined American South in this debut novel. Minnow's father is dangerously ill and on the verge of dying, and the boy is sent to the drugstore to fetch a mysterious medicine. The pharmacist doesn't have the medicine, so Minnow must set out on an increasingly strange and dangerous quest through the South Carolina Sea Islands to acquire the price of a cure: grave dust from the resting place of Sorry George, a legendary witch doctor and practitioner of black magic. Minnow's journey weaves through the lush and wild landscape of the islands, a setting described with such obvious fondness and simple clarity that it fills the novel with a solid presence of its own and adds its weight of reality to the story's supernatural elements. As one might expect of a fairy-tale quest, Minnow's travels take him from one striking episode to another. He meets strangers, both good and bad; receives advice, both wise and deceptive; and is beset by dangers that grow ever more epic. Throughout the story he remains a stubbornly noble hero, saved from too much perfection by believable childish innocence and decisiveness. When he comes across the more fantastical elements of the novel—"hoodoo" magic, the hauntings of Sorry George, ghosts and spirits—he accepts them with the same belief and fear that he gives to the more likely horrors of human cruelty and natural disaster, allowing the reader to also experience both the magical and realistic with equal vividness. An evocative novel that brings to life an intensely realized portrait of the South Carolina Lowcountry and sends its appealing young hero on a journey full of the strangeness of childhood and the difficult choices that come with growing up."
Library Journal - Starred Review:
"In this 2014 South Carolina First Novel Prize winner, the title character’s father is dying, and with money the family can hardly spare, young Minnow sets out to buy medicine from a local pharmacist. When he’s turned away by the pharmacist and sent to a local hoodoo healer, Dr. Crow, Minnow launches a quest that will take him deep into the mysterious South Carolina low country—the sea islands. Dr. Crow will not help Minnow until he delivers soil from the grave of Sorry George, an infamous practitioner of black magic. Minnow faces great adversity as he searches for the grave, including three terrible events that he is told to look for and face straight on, as indeed he does. With no resources but youth and determination and only a ragged dog for company, Minnow journeys forward, unknowingly traveling farther out onto the islands when a powerful storm comes in from the sea. VERDICT Readers will sink into this novel like sinking into South Carolina pluff mud, feeling the tension like oppressive humidity, and wondering what obstacle the protagonist will face next and what sacrifices he will endure for his family. A compellingly dark debut full of Southern mystery and lore."
"A young boy’s simple errand is transformed into a magical odyssey in McTeer’s spellbinding debut. Minnow volunteers to go into a backwater South Carolina river town near his family’s Lowcountry home to get much-needed medicine for his father. But the pharmacist doesn’t have what he needs and sends Minnow to a witch doctor who, in turn, sends the young boy on a life-changing journey in which he encounters forbidden woods, fierce animals, and strangers both helpful and frightening—not to mention an otherworldly encounter with a tribe that he’s told is predestined. McTeer, whose story is inspired by his grandfather, a sheriff of the Lowcountry and a local witch doctor, creates a world totally different from anything Minnow has known, but his innocence and forthrightness protect him like a talisman. This is a memorable coming-of-age story brimming with unexpected encounters with man, beast, and nature, and some magic thrown in for good measure."