Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Character Guest Post - Then Like The Blind Man: Orbie's Story Blog Tour

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

 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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Please welcome Orbie Ray to the blog today!


A Less Than Easy Experience With Author Freddie Owens
Orbie Ray Tells All...

Then Like The Blind Man is a book about me – Orbie Ray – when I was nine and didn't have nobody to play with; when I put dents in Granpaw's hubcaps with a ball peen hammer and killed a bunch of flies on Granny Wood's back porch. It's about when Daddy got killed at Fords and Momma had off and married his boss, a slick talking man with a snake tattoo; it's about all the god awful sum bitchin things that followed – like the insides of a Frankenstein storm, geechy witch doctor rain, Elvis and Johnny and nig.., I mean, colored boys galore! It's a goddamn good story, Blind Man is, but I been told not to cuss about it. I try not to, at least not in front of Momma, but sometimes I cain't keep from it 'cause of how Freddie Owens made me. Freddie Owens lives above the keyboard there. He's the one sent down the words what turned into things – like lightning and bad breath; like a sand papery beard on smooth skin.   

At first I didn't know how it would turn out. I mean I was real worried at first 'cause Freddie killed off Daddy and had Momma marry that man and dumped me off on a dirt farm in Kentucky with all those hillbillies gawking about – colored people too, at church, crying and jumping together like something electrocuted and handing out snakes – and me just a city boy from Detroit, about to pee in my pants watching it all. He put me in a bunch of bad places, Freddie did, but I showed him; I had to, to make the story come true. And it did, I figured it out; it wasn't Freddie at all; and don't let him tell you it was either. It was just me, and me alone; fact was, I had to whisper it in Freddie's ear; I had to let him in on the secret, that there was something special here, something nobody had tried, something I had to find out about myself first – in all the mess Freddie had made.

I probably knowed Freddie better than Freddie knowed Freddie. I mean I was the one got him to keep writing even when he was – after so many years – about to give up on the thing. I think it was 'cause of what a weird kid I was turning out to be, looking at things in ways what made them walk off the page – like if you was to watch a picture show or something and the people on the screen all of a sudden started going every which way, coming out in the audience, touching your face and smelling like body odor. 

I kept telling Freddie not to give up on me; I kept telling him I had a bunch of things to tell about and I could do it real good cause I could see and feel things like nobody else could see and feel things and it'd be so good and people would love it and him too for writing it all down. And I told him he had to keep on even after he was done with writing the thing, even after nobody wanted to make it into a book you could buy at a for real store. I kept saying to him, Look Freddie, people will love me, you'll see, you got to keep trying and he went on and did what I told him; put it all down in this book he made all by his lonesome and then them people who read things for a living, they came and said it was just a goddamn good book – and there I go cussing again – and anyway other people came too, what bought the book and liked it and wrote about it on Amazon – what made Freddie and me go Hot Damn!   You should read it, it's good.


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