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Monday, January 30, 2017

The Healing of Howard Brown by Jeb Stewart Harrison (Book Review)

In association with Premier Virtual Author Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for The Healing of Howard Brown by author Jeb Stewart Harrison!

Book Review

The Healing of Howard Brown by Jeb Stewart Harrison
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: August 16, 2016
Format: Paperback - 336 pages
               Kindle - 1054 KB
ISBN: 978-1530900282
BNID: 978-1530900282
Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction / Family Saga

Buy The Book:
Amazon  - Free on Kindle Unlimited!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Premier Virtual Author Book Tours. 

Book Description:

“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.

The Healing of Howard Brown is a capacious and energetic narrative 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.

Praise for The Healing of Howard Brown by Jeb Stewart Harrison:

“If you enjoy beautiful prose, complex themes of family and race, and a refreshingly original narrator, this book is for you. Harrison is among the select few contemporary fiction writers who still write for serious readers.” – Jim Heynen, author, best known for The One Room Schoolhouse, The Boys’ House, You Know What is Right, The Man Who Kept Cigars in His Cap and many more.

“This book starts off with a bang and keeps on going. Howard is a character with a specific voice and story. I’m sure you’ll be provoked and entertained.”- Jessica Barksdale Inclan, author of The Believe Trilogy, The Being Trilogy, and many more.

“Jeb Stewart Harrison is an original writer and a multitalented creative person. I enjoy his unique and often innovative narrative structure. His books are thoughtfully written and a pleasure to read and savor. While you turn future pages in your life reread this inspiring story. As time goes by—(when you’re older and hopefully ‘wiser’) you’ll feel new motivation with each visit into Howard’s inimitable life.”- Paul C. Steffy, author, The Good Soldier—based on his Infantry year in Vietnam.

“An ambitious story that navigates themes of family, redemption and even metaphysics, in a thought-provoking, humorous way. Harrison clearly has a deep affection for Howard and the myriad of colorful folk who make up his complex, often crazy life. A book any reader will continue thinking about long after putting it down.”- NW Bookman, Amazon Reviewer

Book Excerpt:

1 Trying To Die

I could tell he was trying to die ­– really trying, as if by the sheer force of his iron will he could command his heart to stop, like he had so often commanded me, my sister, my mother and a great many others to stop, to halt, to shut up, to do this or that. He was in that familiar state of stern, steely concentration, laid out on the rented hospital bed at the foot of great grandmother’s regal plantation four-poster, his knuckly fingers rolled into fists, his jaw clenched, his brow furrowed, and the afternoon sun illuminating his gnarled and knobby toes. What, I wondered, was responsible for their profound disfigurement? Was it the miles of fairways, tees and greens he had trudged across in his 85 years? Or was it the endless hours pacing to and fro in San Francisco courtrooms, trying to command the thoughts of judge and jury?
Whatever it was, I decided then and there it should be avoided. I bent over my massive midriff and studied my own toes in the crusty white shag. Aside from the yellowing, curled nails, they didn’t look unusually bent or knobby, at least not yet, but I feared that like many of the failing factory parts of my six/six, 240-pound frame, they would eventually join in the cacophony of inflamed and screaming joints that had accompanied me into my 60th year.
 My father’s exit had become unreasonably complicated. I could understand why, on a purely emotional level, he felt like dying. So did I, even on that exquisitely lit late summer afternoon. We had, both of us, a rough go of late.
It started with my mother succumbing to the “awful awful” (my father’s term for Alzheimer’s) in a quiet but possibly premature fashion, after which he promptly broke his hip, got pneumonia, and forgot how to swallow. Subsequently, his life quickly became a revolving door of hospitals, rehab centers, surgeries, more hospitals and rehab centers, skilled nursing facilities, and finally home to a house full of caregivers, hospice nurses, pills, purees, and us: me, my ever-patient and long-suffering wife Sandy, my winsome son Tripp, his equally winsome girlfriend Elke and the world’s most prescient, possibly telepathic chocolate lab Mr. Booper. On occasion my mercurial shape-shifting sister, Sisi, might show up, but those visits had become increasingly infrequent.
What made my father’s last days so devilishly complicated was this: my sister had decided she was burned out on care-giving and needed a break, so she informed everybody she was going on a three day backpack trip with her new post-divorce boyfriend, a rotund biker who smelled of Cool Ranch Doritos, with a doo-rag atop his shaved dome – the polar opposite of her hail-fellow-well-met husband of 22 years. Our father was horrified, convinced that this creepy recovering alcoholic was going to rape and murder his daughter, chop her up into bite-sized chunks, pack her up in double-strength trash bag and unload her in a Quincy dumpster. So when she didn’t answer our phone calls at the appointed time on Monday, Hal Brown got a little nervous. Then more than a little nervous. When she wasn’t back by Tuesday morning he was beside himself. Spiked a fever. We all started calling around to see if anyone knew of her whereabouts. By the time I learned from her employer that she had walked off the job in a huff it was too late. The old man’s vision of his daughter as a raccoon midnight snack had sent him into delirium, so he laid down on the rent-a-bed, closed his eyes, and told his broken heart to stop.
There I was, stuck between a father who was so bereaved by his daughter’s apparent abandonment that, like a grief-stricken Dickens character, he could just lay down and die, and a sister that obviously didn’t give a shit.  Where would this leave me, once my father was dead and my sister gone? Would I be a 21st century version of young Rasnolikov, abandoned by humanity, my body in tatters, my mind tortured, twisted and inflamed, and my heart throbbing with a cold, nameless ache; nothing more than a branch broken off the family tree, left to rot on the ground? After thirty years of teaching high school English and coaching basketball, with my remaining years stretched out before me like the last flight of the proverbial stairway to heaven, I felt like I couldn’t take another step.

My Book Review:

In The Healing of Howard Brown, author Jeb Stewart Harrison weaves an intriguing contemporary literary tale that follows sixty year old retired high school English teacher / basketball coach Howard Brown Jr., as he embarks on a personal journey to unravel the intricate dynamics of his dysfunctional family history, and unexpectedly gains a new level of self-discovery.

Set in Kentfield, California and St. Francisville, Louisiana, and told in the first person narrative, the author weaves a fascinating tale that easily engages the reader to follow Howard's journey to find his missing mentally unstable sister Sisi, who disappeared before the the death of their father. Howard takes the reader on a wild ride as his journey into his family's dysfunctional past mixes with the present, leading him from his home in California back to his father's family's old plantation property in Louisiana in search of Sisi, that will unexpectedly lead him on a personal journey of deep soul searching and self-discovery.

The author weaves a well written and fascinating family drama that delves into the complexity of the Brown family dynamic, and the serious issues of alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, Alzheimer's Disease, and emotional abuse that plagued the Brown family throughout the years. Through all the crazy mishaps and trials and tribulations that Howard endures while on his journey, he learns to face his demons, the importance of letting go, and the healing power of redemption.

The author provides a wonderful mixture of drama, humor, and seriousness to the story that easily keeps the reader's interest as Howard's journey unfolds. I would be remiss if I didn't mention how much I really enjoyed the author's rich and vividly descriptive style of writing, especially the wonderful descriptions of the California and Louisiana settings.

The Healing of Howard Brown is a thought-provoking contemporary literary tale that will draw you in, touch your soul, and leave a smile on your face.


About The Author

Jeb Stewart Harrison
is a freelance writer, songwriter, musician and painter in Stinson Beach, California. After many years as an ad agency copywriter, writer/producer, creative director, and director of marketing communications, Jeb now writes fiction and creative non-fiction, along with commercial works for hire.

Jeb’s debut novel, Hack, was published by Harper Davis Publishers in August 2012. In 2015 he received his MFA from Pacific Lutheran University at the tender age of 60, and followed up with the publication of The Healing of Howard Brown in August, 2016. He also records and plays electric bass guitar with the popular instrumental combo The Treble Makers, as well as Bay Area favorites Call Me Bwana.

Jeb was born and raised in Kentfield, California, and has lived in Boulder, CO; Missoula, MT; Hollywood, CA; Scottsdale, AZ; Indianapolis, IN and Ridgefield, CT.

Author Website 
Author Blog
Amazon Author Page

Virtual Book Tour

Tour Schedule:

Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus Jan 17 Kick Off & Giveaway

Christy’s Cozy Corners Jan 18 Guest Post

Jean Amazon Reviewer Jan 19 Review

Jersey Girl Book Reviews Jan 30 Review & Excerpt

Indie Reviews Behind the Scenes Feb 3 Interview Live 9 pm est

Deal Sharing Aunt Feb 7 Review

Nanja Amazon Reviewer Feb 16 Review

JBronder Book Reviews Feb 17 Review & Excerpt

Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus Feb 23 Review

The Avid Book Collector Feb 24 Excerpt

Thoughts on This ‘n That Feb 27 Review

Angel Amazon Reviewer Feb 28 Review

Mathew Amazon Reviewer Feb 28 Review


  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed 'The Healing of Howard Brown"!

    1. Hi Teddy Rose! Thank you for the opportunity to feature the book on my blog. :)

  2. Hi Kathleen - I'm so glad you enjoyed Howard! Makes my day, my week, my month, my year! Thanks a gazillion for your support :0)

  3. Hi Jeb! I really enjoyed following Howard's story, it had a great mixture of humor and family drama that I could relate to. :)