"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 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.
Jeb Harrison has crafted a sprawling, funny, wild, generous-hearted tale of middle-aged coming of age. Howard Brown’s life has all the appearances of comfortable stability, until his father’s death sends fissures through his complacency. Possessed by his father’s ghost and searching for his unstable sister, Howard embarks on a quest deep into the ancestral Louisiana homeland in a sometimes lyrical, sometimes hallucinatory, and sometimes hilarious travelogue. In finding the strength to face his demons, Howard is ultimately able to build a home, a family, and a life on his own terms.
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.
Families are complicated.
Howard Brown's family is a sprawling, hard drinking, pill taking, fly fishing, golfing family originally hailing from Louisiana.
Howard himself is a sixty year old, six' six", retired basketball coach. When the book opens, he is patiently keeping watch at his father's bedside. How many of us have been in this situation? He is his father's namesake, but not the same, strong, successful man his father was. He feels like he has been a loser most of his life.
When Howard's father dies, Howard is impelled to go on the ultimate quest to find his sister Sisi. He needs to know why she has done some of the things she has done. In the old days, they were very close, but she is hurtful and sneaky now.
He heads back to Louisiana to the family homestead, where she was last seen in some very odd circumstances. However, nothing in The Healing of Howard Brown is less than odd, and most of it is very funny. And Sisi might be crazy, or she just might be crazy like a fox.
Whether Howard and his cousins are headed deep into the Bayou on a funky fishing trip, accompanied by way too much beer, and that great county music from 60's Louisiana, and some very poisonous snakes, or whether massive thunderstorms are threatening to destroy everything around Howard in a terrifying manner, the vivid descriptions of the surroundings and sounds will keep the reader engrossed.
Nature is a powerful and swift moving force as described in this book. Interestingly, Howard himself begins to become more empowered during the course of the book. Is it his unusual birthmark, which seems almost supernatural, or simply his growing confidence? Read on to find out.
As Howard progresses further and further into the depths of his family's Louisiana estate and meets the people who live there, he begins to understand more about himself. It isn't all about the fear he has felt that he has so openly described to the reader. It isn't all about the pills he has been relying on. It isn't all about the food and drink which the reader gets to share with the characters in a primarily joyous way.
It is not until the end of the book that the readers, delighted and surprised, will be able to understand and accept the redemption that is the ultimate healing of Howard Brown.
This is a wonderful and well written book, at times Dickensian in style, fascinating and full of warmth.
Don't miss it. It will keep you curious, interested, and laughing. It is funny and sweet.
You will be graced and glued to The Healing of Howard Brown right up to the last word.
This is one of the best novels I have read in a long, long time. I was hooked from page one. A cast of interesting characters and a very active narrator. At many points I actually laughed out loud. The relationships between the characters are superb and the settings are quite diverse and interesting. My only minor concern was that once Howard Brown arrives in the South, there are so many characters that, for a short time, I had a time of it keeping them straight. However, as I've said, it's a minor concern. I am glad I was introduced to this fine author and look forward to reading many more of his novels. I highly recommend this work.
Sure, it's only 18 reviews, but considering they're not "friends and family" I have to say I'm a little surprised by the enthusiastic, positive reaction The Healing of Howard Brown has been getting. Makes me wonder if some agent or publisher might do well to pick it up and re-release it to a broader audience...?