Category Archives: Mainstream Fiction

Finding Flipper Frank by Patrick Garry

Finding Flipper Frank

Reviewed by Rich Stoehr

One of the first things I wondered, before I started reading ‘Finding Flipper Frank,’ was just who (or what) “Flipper Frank” was. Fair warning – if you’re wondering about that, you will find out about it, but it won’t be until about two-thirds of the way in. And by the time you get there, you’ll likely be so involved in the unfolding story that you’ll forget you were looking for it in the first place.

On its most basic level, ‘Finding Flipper Frank‘ is the story of a road trip. Three people, mostly strangers to one another, linked by the need to get from Montana to Baltimore…or thereabouts. On the way, they share the same space and get to know one another. There’s Izzy, an older man full of stories about his youth and more than willing to tell them at any time, whether his audience wants to hear them or not. There’s Moira, a woman in her thirties on her way home, bringing with her an air of optimism and hope in everything she touches. And there’s Walt, our uncertain hero, who mostly listens and doesn’t feel he has much to contribute. Middle-aged, kind of aimless, not sure where he’s coming from or where he’s going, Walt is headed to Baltimore to see Cal Ripken break a baseball record in a game he’s not even sure he wants to be at.

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

Then Like the Blind Man:  Orbie's StoryReviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

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’s 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. That’s one of the many nice touches I liked about Freddie Owen’s debut novel, that in it, it’s not Orbie’s grandparents who live in Kentucky that exhibit a prejudiced point of view, but it’s learned from experiences Orbie and his family have living in Detroit, in the north. Of course, in reality, unfortunately you can find prejudice in every state to this day; but, the author didn’t go the stereotypical route of having his northern characters expressing an enlightened POV, and his southern ones being all racists.