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Reviewed by Saifunnissa Hassam for Readers' Favorite
Michael A. Greco's cultural novel A Labyrinth for Loons is the story of a writer exploring the meaning and loss of self-identity. Leonard Smith, an American indie writer, is the principal character and narrator. Leonard, his Japanese wife, and their 11-year-old daughter live in Kyoto, Japan. However, in March 2020, as the Covid pandemic spreads globally, they are in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Leonard's wife and daughter fly back to Kyoto. Leonard remains behind in their condominium with their Japanese cat, Howard. Leonard's tourist visa puts him on a low priority for flights out of Malaysia. He works on his YA novel and teaches writing classes online. Another tenant and writer, Leon Schmidt, commits suicide and leaves his manuscript, Labyrinth, for Leonard. Leon's embalmed body is stored in Leonard's closet (pending burial). The dead Leon receives a visa that will allow him to leave and return to Malaysia at will. Does Leonard dare assume Leon's identity?
I enjoyed reading Michael A. Greco's A Labyrinth for Loons because it is a darkly funny, absurd, and thought-provoking story about self-identity. I liked its quirky principal character Leonard Smith, and I loved the great literary quotations which underscore his inner struggles. I thought interweaving another fictional writer, the embalmed Leon Schmidt, and his novel - Labyrinth - into Leonard's life was extremely funny. I was hooked by the comical and dramatic flow of events. I think the Covid pandemic made the twists and turns more chaotic. The wide cast of characters are from a diversity of cultures and this conveyed the complexity of understanding self-identity extremely well. The stereotyping of characters is sharp and jarring but I felt it showed how individuals see their own identity among many different peoples. A terrific novel about an intrepid writer, Leonard Smith, and the amazing embalmed writer Leon Schmidt!