Dec 23, 2013

Review: Then Like the Blind Man: Orbie's Story by Freddie Owens

This debut novel, mainly set in Kentucky, is a coming of age story told by a young boy who recently lost his father, gained a stepfather and lives in a world he struggles to understand or like.

When Orbie's mother, Ruby, remarries after the death of his father in a factory accident in Detroit, everything changed. Victor, the stepfather, has new dreams in Florida so the family heads south. They stop in Kentucky, where Ruby's sharecropper parents live and Orbie is told he is going to stay there while Victor and Ruby go on to Florida to 'get things settled'. They are also taking Orbie's little sister with them. Orbie feels completely abandoned in this strange place and counts the days until they return to get him.

Orbie blames Victor for the changes in their lives and he senses that he is not the man his mother thinks he is. As the days and weeks go by, Orbie reluctantly befriends a physically handicapped black boy named Willis and he even begins to understand the ways of life in this Appalachian town.  But the most amazing discovery is in meeting a black man named Moses, who is Willis' caretaker. Moses is said to be some sort of medicine/healer man with magical powers through snake charming. Through strange dreams and magical events, Orbie welcomes the visions that appear to him and the messages they bring but he must decide what is real and what to believe.

My Thoughts:

This is a startling debut that tells a riveting story from this boy's perception. Even though Orbie is young, his insights are sharp. He is a bright and loving boy, even in his most stubborn moods. I instantly felt protective of him from the beginning, knowing how deeply he felt the loss of his father. What makes this story so authentic is the perfectly pitched vernacular of the Appalachian people. It may take some readers a few pages to get into the rhythm, but once there, the words flow seamlessly. Freddie Owens painted such a vivid picture of this life with genuine characters, I couldn't help feel as if I was transported back in time.

Though at first I had difficulty relating to the magical elements of the story, I realize it was not the author's fault, but my own. I've read several books containing this element this year and in each case, I resisted the idea at first. I've come to realize that as much as I want to, it takes me longer to appreciate it and accept it into the stories. That said, in the end, I did find it captivating and felt it made this story special. The fact that it wasn't too much or over the top helped.

The mystery surrounding the death of Orbie's father and the business that Victor was embroiled in kept my attention and made me want to keep reading. There was definitely something amiss with him and I like that Orbie wasn't afraid to question it. I also liked how Orbie grew to appreciate and love his grandparents and realized they were very good people.  

As a debut novel, I found THEN LIKE THE BLIND MAN to be a big success and I would recommend it, especially to lovers of Southern Fiction, who can also appreciate magical realism. If you are interested, the Kindle version of this novel is available at Amazon for just .99 at this time.

Author: Freddie Owens
Publisher:Blind Sight Publications
Published: November 2012
Length: 324 pp

1 comment:

  1. Terrific review, Lisa! I have the feeling that I'd enjoy this one.

    Joyous holidays to you and yours!


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