The Healing of Howard Brown by Jeb Stewart Harrison
“This is your last chance to do something right, son. Don’t screw it up.” With these words ringing in his 60-year old ears, Howard Brown, Jr., sets out from Kentfield, California to find his wayward and possibly psychotic sister and return her to their dying father’s bedside. The search leads him to the Brown family’s ancestral home near St. Francisville, Louisiana, where his Southern cousins have apparently conspired with his sister to bilk him out his inherited, potentially oil-rich property. At the same time, he discovers that a long dormant birthmark in his sternum is a portal to the land of the dead. His consciousness is suddenly inundated with terrifying visions of murderous rebels, bloodthirsty zombies, and visitations from a rogue’s gallery of twisted ancestors, until he fears that he is just as crazy as his sister and everybody else in their labyrinthine family. Wounded to his core, doped up and strung out, Howard discovers that his salvation is beating loud and clear within his own weary heart, and that all he has to do is listen.
The Healing of Howard Brown is a capacious and energetic family saga of self-discovery, delivered with an authentic voice that is supple, smart, somber, witty, ironic, self-revealing, self-doubting, and wonderfully lyrical. Themes of family, trust and responsibility to others, the national as well as personal past, and the life of the spirit resound throughout, with a cultural resonance involving class and race, the North and the South, the definition of masculine identity, and, centrally, the nature of mature love in a multitude of relationships–husband-wife, brother-sister, father-son– in the face of a debilitating mental illness that runs like a poison vein through the family tree.
I’ve been involved in a wide range of creative endeavors throughout my career. As a professional writer, I’ve written novels, short fiction, ad copy, brochures, radio and television spots, video scripts, film treatments, interactive scripts, articles and all things social media. In addition to writing prose, I’ve written dozens of pop songs that have received airplay on college and alternative radio stations around the world, (and now iTunes and Pandora Internet Radio), and have performed in sleazy bars and concert halls alike. I also paint landscapes in oil of my beautiful home in Marin County, California and and have sold over 30 original pieces over the past several years.
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“But what does he do for money?” That and more questions are answered here, along with bounteous information about HACK and it’s evil creator.
Howard Brown is a sixty year old retired high school English teacher. He has just lived with his father in his final moments of cancer. With his passing, it is up to Howard to return to the family plantation to find his sister, Sisi that disappeared years earlier. But as Howard makes his way to St. Francisville, Louisiana and revisits his home, family, and those that still live there, Howard starts making discoveries of his own.
Howard comes from a family with lots of trouble from alcohol, drug use, mental illness, abuse, and so much more. Howard has been living his life but with the passing of his father he has to reach out and deal with all that he has been ignoring. Just that makes this a wonderful story of healing. But then there is Sisi and his cousins. Is Sisi as crazy as she appears or does she have her own plan? And what is it about the possibility of oil on the family plantation?
The Healing of Howard Brown is not one of my usual reads but I when I was asked to take part in the tour I was interested. I’m so happy that I read this book. It is beautifully written, wonderful imagery, and has such a heartwarming story as you follow along with Howard healing from the past. This is a wonderful story and one that I strongly recommend.
I received The Healing of Howard Brown from Teddy at Virtual Author Book Tours for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.
3 Odes to Mr. Booper
My name is Howard Brown and that is what I am called. Not Howie, not Hal (that’s my father, not me), not Harry, especially not Harry. Not Ward. Not Brownie or HB. Not even Junior, or at least not anymore, except by my sister who used it just because nobody else did. For thirty years I answered to “Coach,” and still do when one of my ex-hoopsters or students spy me buying smokes at the Seven Eleven. I don’t mind still being “Coach;” it conjures a vision of youthful vitality that, like clean living, has all but faded from my view. In truth, I remember getting out of the shower, just a few days after my father’s miraculous change of plan, and almost fainting at the sight of my supersized old man-boobs in the mirror. Had there been a scalpel handy, I might have performed a spontaneous double self-mastectomy. It was a moment of truth that I’ll never forget: standing before myself in the mirror, praying for the miracle of booblessness and wondering how the fuck did you get so old?
Outside observers might have accused my Mom, Marjorie Brown nee Evans, of negligence in the matter of my potential existence long before I was born. The seeds of her negligence were not just seeds; they were chocolate covered peanuts, specifically. And candy bars, cookies, glazed jelly donuts, pistachio ice cream, pineapple upside down cake, potato chips, corn dogs, cheeseburgers, and every sort of crap a girl could stuff into her pudgy cheeks on a Lake Michigan beach in Evanston, Illinois, 1934. My mother, Marjorie Brown, told me with pride that she was once referred to as “Large Marge,” “Marge the Barge,” “Heavy Evans” and just plain “fatso” in the schoolyard, the Indian Hills swimming pool and the Johnson Street Beach.
But when her hormones, kicked in and she began take an interest in boys the eating abruptly stopped. All manner of eating. Two years later, at sixteen, she became a model for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency and started to show up on local billboard and magazine ads, always bearing plenty of leg and a tight sweater. “Large Marge” was now “Take Charge Marge:” the miracle weight loss model of Chicago.
Unfortunately, when it came time to make babies my mother’s famous figure was not be tampered with. Fueled by a steady diet of scotch, cigarettes and Librium, she gained just 11 pounds, five of which were me, a grossly underdeveloped wet rat with a disturbing hole the size of a dime in my sternum. Much later I was told that this mysterious hole brought about an endless battery of medical tests for the first year of my life and that my parents fretted over it to distraction. Later, when I started to get a handle on language, I learned that my mother referred to my hole as my “chown hoon dong,” though it would be many years before I knew what that meant. Had I known how that little hole would wreak havoc upon my life, I might have asked for it to be plugged up with something. Chewing gum. Concrete. A dog turd. Anything!
Then I started to grow, and grow, and grow some more at an unusually rapid clip. At 10 years old I was five feet, nine inches. At 12 I was six-two. At 15 I was six-six, 160 pounds; one of those skinny guys that disappears when they turn sideways. And I was so hopelessly uncoordinated I couldn’t even walk down the street without falling all over myself. Now, I see it as the beginning of what was to be a long, acrimonious, dysfunctional relationship with my body; a body that seemed to have a mind of it’s own, completely independent of the supposed control panel in my cranium.
It started with the hole in my sternum. Then, when I was around 11, an orthopedic surgeon noticed my unusually upright stance on the putting green and announced to my father that I had a serious back problem. Later, tests revealed that a crucial factory part – the “Scotty’s Collar” – had failed to fully develop in my lumbar vertebrae. Or it became deformed as a result of playing too much golf during my remarkable growth spurt. Regardless of the cause, the doctor ruled out contact sports (much to the chagrin of the football coach, who figured all I had to do was stand in front of the opposing quarterback with my arms raised) lest my spine crack and confine me to a wheelchair for the rest of my life. Basketball was okay – hoops being a different game in those days – even though I had a hard time running from one end of the court to the other without falling on my face. Golf was never in question, regardless of my broken back. It was what Howard Browns did, period. I imagine that even if I had been born with my head screwed on backwards, golf would still have been okay.
Golf exacerbated my back problems, of course. So did everything else. By the time I retired from teaching at 55 everything I did, from taking out the trash to sweeping the patio, caused excruciating pain, accompanied by lightning bolts shooting down my thighs. I felt supremely gypped. I had been looking forward to retirement, albeit in a rather vague and hazy way: I would get back to my landscape paintings, practice my guitar, walk Mr. Booper in the watershed, hone my cooking skills, tinker in the tool shed, putter in the garden, and join a men’s group. Instead, I was afraid to move.