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Then Like The Blind Man: Orbie's Story [Kindle Edition]

Freddie Owens
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (241 customer reviews)

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  • Length: 330 pages
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Book Description

Then Like The Blind Man: Award-Winning Novel Depicts 1950s Southern Boy's Radically Shifting Racial Prejudices. Hailed "Destined to be a Classic" by Critics.

Masterfully crafted by Freddie Owens and loosely based on his own coming-of-age, 'Then Like the Blind Man: Orbie's' Story tells the story of a downtrodden nine-year-old who is sent from the city to live with his grandparents in the outback of Kentucky, taking few possessions yet a heart and soul chock-full of hatred for black people. But his grandparents are mavericks of the 1950s south; transforming Orbie into a young man that battles through the demons of his generation to embrace compassion and racial equality.

Synopsis:

A storm is brewing in the all-but-forgotten back country of Kentucky.
And, for young Orbie Ray, the swirling heavens may just have the power to tear open his family's darkest secrets. Then Like the Blind Man: Orbie's Story is the first person account of a white youth cast aside in the segregated South of the 1950s, and the forces he must overcome to restore order in his world.

Nine-year-old Orbie already has his cross to bear. After the death of his father, his mother Ruby has off and married Victor, a slick-talking man with a snake tattoo. Orbie hates his stepfather more than he can stand, a fact that lands him at his grandparents' place in Harlan's Crossroads, Kentucky. 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 the local Pentecostal congregation of snake handlers. Soon, however, he finds his worldviews changing, particularly when it comes to matters of race, religion and the true cause of his father's death.

Equal parts Hamlet and Huckleberry Finn,  Then Like the Blind Man is certain to resonate with lovers of literary as well as historical fiction, particularly in the grand Southern tradition of storytelling.

While fiction about the 1950s Civil Rights era is far from rare, few capture the period and struggles from the perspective of a white child. In 'Then Like the Blind Man: Orbie's Story', Freddie Owens depicts the coming-of-age of one nine-year-old protagonist whose story transcends fiction to capture the shifting racial prejudices that turned would-be racists into a generation that embraced racial equality.
  • (2013) ABNA Quarter Finalist
  • Received IR Discovery Award for Best in Literary Fiction (2013)
  • (2014 )Finalist for Kindle Book Review's Literary Fiction Award.
  • Received Kirkus Review's STAR for a novel of exceptional merit.
  • Retailers, Libraries and Educators can get the book through Ingram Wholesale.
  • Now Available In Bookstores Nationwide!
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Down for Reviews...


Editorial Reviews

Review

In his debut novel, Owens captures his characters' folksy Appalachian diction without overdoing it. He also renders a child's viewpoint with great psychological sensitivity: "I didn't like the way [Victor] was all the time trying to be on my mind. It was too close together somehow--like when Momma started talking about Jesus and wouldn't shut up."
A psychologically astute, skillful, engrossing and satisfying novel.
* Starred Kirkus Review *

Every once in awhile, you read a book in which every element fits together so perfectly that you just sit back in awe at the skill of the storyteller. Then Like the Blind Man is one of these books. ...[It] grabs you from the very first page and carries you along, breathless and tense, until the very last, very satisfying sentence. Freddie Owens has created something special.
* The San Francisco Book Review *

In an American coming-of-age novel, the author presents a stunning story with clarity and historical accuracy, rich in illuminating the Appalachian culture of the time period. ...[It] brings history alive, depicting American union labor practices and the racial prejudices that were so prevalent in the 1950's.
* Publisher's Weekly *

Orbie's sharecropping grandparents, by defying convention with unnerving grace, become founts of colloquial wisdom whose appeal is impossible to resist, and the Orbie they nurture -- the best version of a boy who may otherwise have been lost -- is someone the reader comes to love.
* Michelle Schingler / ForeWord Book Review *

The magical undercurrent that runs through the story adds to its feeling of other-worldliness, and the symbolism is both omnipresent and beautifully handled...
* Catherine Langrehr / The Indie Reader *

From the Author

Dead Chicken Memories...

I was born in Kentucky but grew up around Detroit. I would sometimes spend a week or two, once I spent six weeks, in Kentucky, staying with cousins or with my grandparents. It was an entirely different world for me, providing some of the best and worst times of my growing up years. I had a great time on a dairy farm with several of my cousins, milking cows, hoeing tobacco, running over the hills and up and down a creek that surrounded the big farm. I remember too, periods of abject boredom, sitting around my grandparent's old farm house with nothing to do but wander about the red clay yard or kill flies on my grandmother's screened-in back porch.  

Certain aspects of these growing up years did come to light in the novel, Then Like The Blind Man: Orbie's Story, knowingly at times, and at times spontaneously and distantly, as ghostly north-south structures, as composite personae, as moles and stains and tears and glistening rain and dark bottles of beer, rooms of cigarette smoke, hay lofts and pigs. Here's a quote from the acknowledgements.

  • Two memories served as starting points for a short story I wrote that eventually became this novel. One was of my Kentucky grandmother as she emerged from a shed with a white chicken held upside down in one of her strong bony hands. I, a boy of nine and a 'city slicker' from Detroit, looked on in wonderment and horror as she summarily wrung the poor creature's neck. It ran about the yard frantically, yes incredibly, as if trying to locate something it had misplaced as if the known world could be set right again, recreated, if only that one thing was found. And then of course it died. The second memory was of lantern light reflected off stones that lay on either side of a path to a storm cellar me and my grandparents were headed for one stormy night beneath a tornado's approaching din. There was wonderment there too, along with a vast and looming sense of impending doom.
I and hundreds of thousands of other adults see ourselves in Orbie. As I said above, I spent several of my growing-up summers in what to me was the Kentucky wilderness. While my big city prejudices and toxic beliefs about 'hillbillies' were quashed there, my prejudices against 'colored people' were largely supported.

With each trip I became more and more confounded by a white culture that was extremely loving on the one hand and yet extremely prejudiced on the other. It wasn't until college and the advent of the Civil Rights Movement that I began to untangle this confusion. Then Like the Blind Man fictionalizes and captures aspects of this journey. I have striven to write it in a raw and uninhibited fashion, and in spite of its many shortcomings, I believe it is the story (or at least one story) of our nation.

Freddie Owens

Product Details

  • File Size: 2878 KB
  • Print Length: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Blind Sight Publications (November 26, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A42VK4O
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #342,838 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
(241)
4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
67 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Then Like the Blind Man: Orbie's Story December 9, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
hey..this is a really good read. Its not so easy now to find a good story and a good writer together. Often the "good" writers try so hard to be good they get in the way of the story. It is like they are not writing for the reader but for some literary prize. In this book the author is just darn good. I don't think its so easy to be a grown man and stay true to a young boy's voice and keep it really interesting at the same time. I love Orbie....i care about him a lot and i felt like i really got to be part of his life...and i found it really hard to let him go. So i read it again. I do not usually bother to write these reviews but this book really got my emotions reved up. Highly recommend giving it a read.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Destined To Be A Classic! December 7, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
Debut author, Freddie Owens, swings for the fences and hits a home run with his excellent coming-of-age story set primarily in Kentucky, Then Like the Blind Man. When Orbie's father dies, his life changes forever. His mother, Ruby, finds herself attracted to the smooth-talking, poetic atheist Victor Denalsky, who had been Orbie's father's foreman at a steel mill in Detroit. After Orbie's father dies, Victor courts Orbie's mother, and eventually marries her. Not wanting to nor desiring to take care of a nine-year-old boy with an attitude, like Orbie, who can't stand his stepfather, anyway, Ruby and Victor decide to drop Orbie off at Ruby's parents' house in Kentucky, with the promise that they'll come back to get him once they've settled in Florida, where Victor supposedly has a job lined up. Orbie's mother and Victor take with them Orbie's younger sister, Missy.

The novel is told in the first person by Orbie, who, though young, is very insightful for his age. As I read, I was often reminded of another famous novel told from the POV of a child, Scout, To Kill a Mockingbird. The themes are different, but Orbie's and Scout's perspectives on African Americans in the 1950¡äs are significant to understanding both books. Orbie has some bad experiences with some of the black people he comes in contact with early on in the novel, so he calls them the "n" word at various points in the story.

Through the course of Then Like the Blind Man, Orbie eventually realizes that his grandparents are great people who love him. They may not have attained a high level of school education, but they are wise about farm life and human nature.

They don't like it that their daughter, Ruby, has developed a prejudice for blacks, nor that she's passed it on to Orbie.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Wow read that engrosses you January 10, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
I never read a book like this, and I read a lot! It was quite engaging.....the characters are varied and real; and some of them are just one of a kind that you will not likely encounter again!
Very unusual read; and I found the voice of the nine year old protagonist to be especially poignant. The story weaves a finely written tale that engrosses you; angers you, and makes you want to cheer for Orbie as he quietly navigates through the experiences of his encounters in a very small Kentucky town in the 1950's. Would recommend to anyone; and once you are gripped by it, you will want to finish it to know just what happens, like I did! The ending is superbly written; and you won't forget it........
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story! July 12, 2013
Format:Paperback
Orbie has suffered a lot in his short 9 years of life. His father died in a tragic accident and he has a too-soon stepdaddy, Victor, that barely tolerates him. So at the first chance, he is given the boot in Kentucky to stay with his grandparents. His Momma promises that they will come back for him as soon as they get things settled in Florida, but of course, it takes longer than she had planned.

The story takes place in the late 50's, so racial prejudices are front and center in this coming of age tale. Orbie arrives in Kentucky with a bunch of hatred in his heart. Hatred for his stepdaddy, hatred for God, and hatred for black people. (The N* word is used frequently due to the subject matter, so readers should be aware) He uses his 'sailor's mouth' to fend off anyone that might truly care for him. His Granpaw has a mouth to match his and a wicked sense of humor. Both he and Granny have beliefs that Orbie just doesn't care for, such as race equality and attending church. Slowly but surely, Orbie realizes how little he really 'knows' about life. His grandparents and a new friend helps to open his eyes and heart to new experiences.

What I like most about this book is that the Orbie doesn't all of a sudden mature and turn into an angel. His character develops at a very realistic pace, and does things at true to life speed. One of my pet peeves is when a character in a book has a sudden change of heart just because it would fit the plot better.

There is good deal of magical realism in this book. I really enjoyed that element of the story. It softens the edges on many of the serious subjects (child abuse, death, racism, domestic violence) dealt with in this novel. Also, loved the way the author brought all of the people in this novel to life.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good first effort May 1, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
This unpretentious first book is an emotional story, well told. The pacing is great. There's a nice ebb and flow building to one heck of a climax. You believe (for the most part) that it is from a child's POV. And the elements of magic and small town beliefs rings true.
The only negative for me, was that the author occasionally slipped into contemporary language or thought and so I lost the sense of space and time.
All in all, a very enjoyable book.
Thanks
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
enjoyed the book
Published 7 days ago by colleen
3.0 out of 5 stars Seemed like something was missing
I found this a book a bit hard to get into. The story is set in the 1950’s. The main characters are Victor, Ruby, Orbie, Missy and Ruby’s parents. Read more
Published 18 days ago by Jeff Dawson
5.0 out of 5 stars Given To Me For An Honest Review Then Like The Blind Man
Given To Me For An Honest Review

Then Like The Blind Man: Orbie's Story by Freddie Owens is one of the best debut novels I have read. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Coco
4.0 out of 5 stars easy to relax into with characters who come alive and ...
I am still reading, in between life's pages - I'm finding the story enjoyable, easy to relax into with characters who come alive and pull you in.
Published 2 months ago by Fred M Mather
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Well written novel =, held me captive from the first page to the last.
Published 2 months ago by G. Matter
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
Orbie is a young boy growing up in Detroit. He is often bullied and he has very prejudiced ideas.
Orbie's father is killed. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Sandra K. Stiles
3.0 out of 5 stars not sue what to think
I am not sure what to think about the story of a boy trying to save his mother from an evil man
Many parts of the book were very fast paced with the unexpected, and yet there... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Nancy Rizzo
3.0 out of 5 stars When dialogue attacks...
Owens produces a fairly good read in "Then Like the Blind Man: Orbie's Story." The story tracks the summer that Orbie spends with his grandparents in the Deep South while... Read more
Published 4 months ago by R. Lee Barrett
5.0 out of 5 stars loved this story
I loved the way this story was told through the eyes of a young boy. The reader was never left hanging and the storyline was excellent a good read!
Published 4 months ago by Louella M. Garza
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good
Published 4 months ago by Sharon Baskin
Search Customer Reviews

More About the Author

Dead Chicken Memories...

I was born in Kentucky but grew up around Detroit. I would sometimes spend a week or two, once I spent six weeks, in Kentucky, staying with cousins or with my grandparents. It was an entirely different world for me, providing some of the best and worst times of my growing up years. I had a great time on a dairy farm with several of my cousins, milking cows, hoeing tobacco, running over the hills and up and down a creek that surrounded the big farm. I remember too, periods of abject boredom, sitting around my grandparent's old farm house with nothing to do but wander about the red clay yard or kill flies on my grandmother's screened-in back porch.

Certain aspects of these growing up years did come to light in the novel, Then Like The Blind Man: Orbie's Story, knowingly at times, and at times spontaneously and distantly, as ghostly north-south structures, as composite personae, as moles and stains and tears and glistening rain and dark bottles of beer, rooms of cigarette smoke, hay lofts and pigs. Here's a quote from the acknowledgements.

Two memories served as starting points for a short story I wrote that eventually became this novel. One was of my Kentucky grandmother as she emerged from a shed with a white chicken held upside down in one of her strong bony hands. I, a boy of nine and a 'city slicker' from Detroit, looked on in wonderment and horror as she summarily wrung the poor creature's neck. It ran about the yard frantically, yes incredibly, as if trying to locate something it had misplaced as if the known world could be set right again, recreated, if only that one thing was found. And then of course it died. The second memory was of lantern light reflected off stones that lay on either side of a path to a storm cellar me and my grandparents were headed for one stormy night beneath a tornado's approaching din. There was wonderment there too, along with a vast and looming sense of impending doom.

I and hundreds of thousands of other adults see ourselves in the protagonist Orbie Ray. As conveyed above, I spent several of my growing-up summers in what to me was the Kentucky wilderness. While my big city prejudices and toxic beliefs about 'hillbillies' were quashed there, my prejudices against 'colored people' were largely supported.

With each trip I became more and more confounded by a white culture that was extremely loving on the one hand and yet extremely prejudiced on the other. It wasn't until college and the advent of the Civil Rights Movement that I began to untangle this confusion. Then Like the Blind Man fictionalizes and captures aspects of this journey. I have striven to write it in a raw and uninhibited fashion, and in spite of its many shortcomings, I believe it is the story (or at least one story) of our nation.

Freddie Owens

MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Freddie Owens holds a master's degree in contemplative psychotherapy from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Born in Kentucky and raised in Detroit, inspiration for his first novel, Then Like the Blind Man: Orbie's Story, came from childhood experiences growing up around Harlan's Crossroads , Kentucky. Life-long studies of Tibetan Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta in addition to his encounters with Native American Shamanism are also of note in this regard.

Currently Freddie Owens is at work on his second novel. He writes and performs poetry and has been published in Crystal Clear and Cloudy, Poet Lore and Flying Colors Anthology. In addition, as a licensed professional counselor and psychotherapist, he for many years worked with both perpetrators and victims of domestic violence, providing therapies for individuals and families.


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