Title: Then Like the Blind Man: Orbie’s Story
Author: Freddie Owens
Publisher: Blind Sight Publications
Genre: Historical Fiction/Coming of Age
Format: Paperback & eBook
Nine-year-old Orbie already has his cross to bear. After the sudden death of his father, his mother Ruby has off and married his father’s coworker and friend Victor, a slick-talking man with a snake tattoo. Since the marriage, Orbie, his sister Missy, and his mother haven’t had a peaceful moment with the heavy-drinking, fitful new man of the house. Orbie hates his stepfather more than he can stand; this fact lands him at his grandparents’ place in Harlan’s Crossroads, Kentucky, when Victor decides to move the family to Florida without including him. In his new surroundings, Orbie finds little to distract him from Granpaw’s ornery ways and constant teasing jokes about snakes.
As Orbie grudgingly adjusts to life with his doting Granny and carping Granpaw, who are a bit too keen on their black neighbors for Orbie’s taste, not to mention their Pentecostal congregation of snake handlers, he finds his world views changing, particularly when it comes to matters of race, religion, and the true cause of his father’s death. He befriends a boy named Willis, who shares his love of art, but not his skin color. And, when Orbie crosses paths with the black Choctaw preacher, Moses Mashbone, he learns of a power that could expose and defeat his enemies, but can’t be used for revenge. When a storm of unusual magnitude descends, he happens upon the solution to a paradox that is both magical and ordinary. The question is, will it be enough?
Equal parts Hamlet and Huckleberry Finn, it’s a tale that’s both rich in meaning, timely in its social relevance, and rollicking with boyhood adventure. The novel mines crucial contemporary issues, as well as the universality of the human experience while also casting a beguiling light on boyhood dreams and fears. It’s a well-spun, nuanced work of fiction that is certain to resonate with lovers of literary fiction, particularly in the grand Southern tradition of storytelling.
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My Goodreads REVIEW
My Amazon REVIEW
Word of caution: There is alot of language in this book and since it is wrote from the stand point of the 1950's, the use of the "n" word is used throughout.
Set in rural Kentucky in the 1950's the story fills you with a sense of chaos and tension from the very beginning. This is a wonderful coming of age story for a young boy named Orbie,a curious lad filled with wonder, love and a child's understanding of the world around him. This story has alot of different themes running through it: love, forgiveness, mercy, domestic violence, sexual abuse, religion, discrimination, racial tensions, violence, murder, death and right in the middle of it all is Orbie. Trying to understand his place in all of this and searching to find himself. The characters are well thought out and developed to the point I wanted to yell at Ruby for her blindness toward the evil in Victor and hold Orbie and console him and his sister. I also liked how Freddie worked in the grandparents with an emphasis on the important role they play in mentoring children and establishing morals and values into them. The dialect was so wonderful that I found myself reading with certain accents as characters changed and it helped really submerse myself into the story and time period.
4 out of 5 stars
I witnessed my grandmother wring a chicken's neck when I was nine. It ran about the yard headless, spewing blood and flapping its wings as the life went out of it. For the chicken and for the boy I was too, there was something existentially irreversible about this, something horrific and final. I wanted to write about it, not so much just to describe the horrors of a chicken's death but to say something about how I, a nine-year-old, experienced these. I wanted to get into the skin of the little boy I remembered and try to write from his point of view, which turned out to be quite fascinating. An alive, vibrant and vivid livingness manifested that I, as an adult writer, could not have matched without on a daily basis trying to slip into the boy's world. This was not always easy to do, but once achieved, all sorts of possibilities for writing opened up.
What do you hope readers will get from your book?
I want readers to enter the book's fictional world without disturbances or distractions of any kind. That is perhaps the main reason I chose to write it from Orbie Ray's point of view - so that the reader would identify with Orbie and begin to see the world as he does. I can think of no better way to get caught up in a story than this - to begin to see the world with fresh eyes, even if only borrowed for a time.
Did your book require a lot of research?
It is regarded as an historical novel by some - and I suppose in a way it is - but I never wrote it with this in mind. I imagine a truly historical work would require a lot of research - to get the time line and facts right and so forth. I did not have to do much research on Then Like The Blind Man however, I think because I wrote it as a work of literary fiction. Many of the facts I knew purely from memory, from having lived through the era. I did have to do a bit of research with regard to the Pentecostal and snake-handling religion of the South. I also had to run down little facts like whether or not a 1950 Ford car came with an automatic transmission, which it did as I found out. In fact, it was the first Ford car to be available with an automatic transmission. It also came with vinyl seats.
What do you do when your muse refuses to collaborate?
I wait her out. Truly. If I do nothing but stare at the screen for three hours, which I have done on more than a few occasions, I count it as a session. Something will come, always, eventually, if not on one particular day then on another. There is in such doggedness and discipline a kind of devotion that no muse worth her name can long ignore.
How do you keep your narrative exciting?
If one tries too hard to spice up the narrative I think the effort can backfire and produce a narrative that sounds contrived and oddly (ironically) tedious. In order for the story to be believable, its tone, its coloring must ring true; it must not distract the reader from his or her feeling of involvement, of participating in the evolution of the narrative. For excitement to exist there must be contrast. I think that if there's too much tweaking for excitement - like you get in certain 'high concept' movies where exciting scenes follow one another in a crescendo of special effects - everything starts to take on an oddly tedious pitch with little room for breath. And I think that's an important consideration. Readers need to breath. Writers need to as well.
Do you have a writing schedule? Are you disciplined?
I do schedule myself to be at a certain place at a certain time every day in order to write - except sometimes I take off for a day or two on the weekend. I try to be consistent. I write in the afternoon on some days; on others it may be in the morning, three hours at a stretch, sometimes longer. I regard my scheduled writing time as I would an appointment with a doctor or dentist, the only difference being that my doctor or dentist, i.e., my muse, doesn't always show up. It's important that I do however. If the she sees that I am present, she might deign to be present too. I could then count myself lucky.
How do you define success?
I used to think that if I wrote a book I liked and was satisfied I had done everything possible to make it a worthy piece of writing and that if more than a handful of people liked it and of course some independent reviewers did too, then that would be success enough. I think I did achieve at least this much, even as an independently published author - but since the advent of this 'success', the issue of earned money and how many books sold, etc. has reared its ugly head. I find myself now stuck in a sort of marketing whorl that never seems to end. That sucks time and energy away from the actual work of writing - not at all what I had envisioned. Success becomes money becomes marketing becomes developing a platform and a brand and on and on and on. Success defined this way is so elusive as to be almost unachievable - unless of course one has large sums of money to throw at the problem. It gets to be like pleasure in life - relentlessly pursued, rarely realized and always followed by pain. One must remember not to forget to write!
Where is your book available?
You can get my book on Amazon in either paperback or Kindle version here. There's also a website on which the book is further described. I've started a blog there as well. Finally, a link to the book's trailer on YouTube, which I'm proud of and think is pretty cool, is here .