Shackled in a dreary room in one of Chicago’s mental hospitals, a schizophrenic child’s life had crossed the way of eternal darkness. Wounded and nearly abandoned, this kid couldn’t foretell then that he was to attain freedom from the dismal scene of the mental hospital, get back to school, go to fight in a war for his country, get married and sire kids, and found his own publishing company in the heart of the world’s publishing center. This child was Mike Stefan Strozier and The Labyrinth (World Audience Publishers, 2006) is his memoir.
Reading the book’s subtitle – schizophrenia, homelessness, war, alcoholism, and divorce – did at first induce some apprehension: was it going to be another gloom-and-doom story? But it was amazing to find the episodes of Mike’s troubled past free of self-pity. Instead, you find the writer’s success in stepping aside from the negativity so frequently associated with the bitter memories of trauma. With time, the account of his life’s most challenging phases show Mike as a man growing in strength while his trial changed its guise. There was pain, a lot of it, but there also was a characteristically human tenacity that took the throes one after the other, without cringing. The Labyrinth goes to show how tolerant the human spirit is!
Something worth-noticing in the book is that Mike has chosen not to causally or – for some part – chronologically connect the choices he made in his adult life; one reason perhaps being that he didn’t have many of them. But this is also how he proves his writing talent, i.e. by engaging the readers’ interest in the immediacy of his episodic narrative. And it works in preventing The Labyrinth from sounding too egotistical.
There is some limitation, however, with respect to the book’s audience. This reviewer feels that The Labyrinth is about the phases of a man’s life, which would be of little interest to many women. The interesting question that strikes the mind, therefore, is ‘who is Mike’s Ariadne?’ Or did his magical thread come out of the blue?