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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 (226 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A storm is brewing in the all-but-forgotten backcountry of Kentucky. And, for 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 enthralling debut novel by Freddie Owens, which tells the story of a feisty wunderkind in the segregated South of the 1950s, and the forces he must overcome to restore order in his world. Evocative of a time and place long past, this absorbing work of magical realism offered with a Southern twist will engage readers who relish the Southern literary canon, or any tale well told.

Nine-year-old Orbie has his cross to bear. After the 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. Now, Orbie, his sister Missy, and his mother haven’t had a peaceful moment with the heavy-drinking new man of the house. 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 their Pentecostal congregation of snake handlers. And, when he meets the black Choctaw preacher, Moses Mashbone, he learns of powers that could expose his father’s murderer. As a storm of unusual magnitude descends, Orbie happens upon the solution to a paradox at once magical and quite ordinary. But will it be enough?

Equal parts Hamlet and Huckleberry Finn, it’s a tale that’s rich in meaning, socially relevant, 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.

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY WRITES:

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 is 1959 and Orbie, aged 9, is forced to spend the summer with his grandparents in Harlan, Kentucky, rather than travel to St. Petersburg, Florida, with his mother, sister, and step-father Victor. Instead he will live in a two-room cabin with his share-cropping grandparents, no friends, and nothing to do. Such is the set-up of the story of a young boy from Detroit who learns about racial tolerance, religion, and the meaning of betrayal and love. As the summer progresses there are flashbacks to Obie’s tragedy, pain, and misunderstanding that help to illuminate the reasons for his fears and uncertainties. The reader learns these lessons with Orbie, gaining knowledge and understanding of the segregated South. This story educates and brings history alive, depicting American union labor practices and the racial prejudices that were so prevalent in the 1950’s.

ABNA Publisher’s Weekly Reviewer

THE MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW WRITES:

The weight of the world was never meant for the young. "Then Like the Blind Man: Orbie's Story" tells the story of nine year old Orbie as the death of his father pushes him off from his mother as she marries a man he can't get along with. Living with his grandparents, Orbie learns much of the world, his parents, and faith. With much of faith and learning, "Then Like the Blind Man" is a strong addition to general fiction collections with a focus on coming of age tales.

John Taylor
Reviewer

KINDLE NATION WRITES:

Reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird, this "sensitive and gripping" coming-of age story evokes backcountry Kentucky in the troubled 1950's in prose that's spare yet lyrical -- a "special" novel worthy of joining the ranks of an illustrious Southern literary tradition.


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.
If you enjoy reading this book half as much as I enjoyed writing it, you'll have enjoyed it indeed!

Best,
Freddie Owens

Product Details

  • File Size: 2514 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:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #232,704 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
65 of 66 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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41 of 42 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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44 of 46 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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9 of 9 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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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars dissapointed April 4, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
I dislike writing a negative review, but the book description is just not accurate. I was really looking forward to read the book based on it, but was dissapointed.

"...this absorbing work of magical realism offered up with a Southern twist..." ...well, not quite. When I think magical realism, I think Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Isabel Allende, unfortunately this book wasn't it. The "magical realism" was forced, and did not flow well with the rest of the story.

"...Equal parts Hamlet and Huckleberry Finn...", really? just because it takes place in the south, in the country and a boy is the central character does not make it Huckleberry Finn.

Take that description away, and then maybe I would give it a chance.

A final thought, Orbie's voice was somewhat flat and at times seemed like an adult trying hard to get the child's voice and not being able to find it. I do not think the book was ready yet.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Interesting
Published 6 days ago by George Whitmire
4.0 out of 5 stars A meaningful Novel
A suspense filled story. Tragedy, love, racial tension, religion and mysticism all combined to make this a true page turner.
Published 10 days ago by Gilda Zarro
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Already reviewed.
Published 16 days ago by Sirde
4.0 out of 5 stars Good story
This story takes place in the 1950's when everything was so much simpler..... or was it.

This is a story about of a boy, Orbie, who is left with his grandparents in... Read more
Published 25 days ago by Sophie's Mom
5.0 out of 5 stars Really enjoyed the characters
The relationships between the characters are thought provoking and powerful. I hope that there will be more from this author..
Published 27 days ago by Debra L. Gaskins
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good read, great story...
Rooting for Orbie wondering who will save him
Published 1 month ago by Jacqueline
5.0 out of 5 stars adventurous
The story was captivating. The main characters were brave. Great story! I hated it had to end. I recommend this book for entertaining enjoyment.
Published 1 month ago by Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Then Like The Blind Man
This is the second time I read this book and it kept me glued to my seat again. I just think it's an excellent book.
Published 1 month ago by margaret
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good read but a bit of an anti-climactic ending.
Published 1 month ago by JKA
5.0 out of 5 stars Really worthwhile
The characterizations were very good. You feel they are real people you have encountered. The plot was complete and pulled me along. Very satisfying.
Published 1 month ago by Maryanne
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More About the Author

A poet and fiction writer, my work has been published in Poet Lore, Crystal Clear and Cloudy, and Flying Colors Anthology. I am a past attendee of Pikes Peak Writer's Conferences and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, and a current member of Lighthouse Writer's Workshop in Denver, Colorado. In addition, as a professional counselor and psychotherapist, I for many years counseled perpetrators of domestic violence and sex offenders, and provided therapies for individuals and families. I hold a master's degree in contemplative psychotherapy from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Born in Kentucky and raised in Detroit, I drew inspiration for my first novel, Then Like The Blind Man: Orbie's Story, from childhood experiences growing up around Harlan's Crossroads, Kentucky. My life-long studies of Tibetan Buddhism and Vedanta not to mention encounters with Native American Shamanism are also of note in this regard.

Two memories served as starting points for a short story I wrote that eventually became the novel, Then Like the Blind Man / Orbie's Story. 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. I watched as 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 aright, recreated, if only that one thing could be 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. For these and many others of my childhood memories I owe my grandparents. Had I not been exposed to their homespun and wizened ways I would not have been able to begin my short story much less this novel. The same goes for my dear, good-hearted parents who have survived many bad times to enjoy the good.




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