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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spotlight Review: Owen Fiddler, A Journey Best Not Taken… But a Book Well Worth Reading

There are times when reading a book, you happen upon an unexpected lesson, and a shining gift wrapped up in darkness. Its wisdom comes from the voice of its writer. It makes you think, discover, nod your head and relate as you read along. I just completed such a novel. It reached my inner voice, gave me a lesson in humanity, in faith, and in mankind. The book is called “Owen Fiddler.” It’s actually written by a fellow blogger, Marvin Wilson. While I was aware that Mr. Wilson was a writer, until now, I didn’t realize the fully loaded caliber of his gift. This book is the real deal. It has more than left a lasting impression on me. Owen Fiddler has branded my spirit, like a cautionary tattoo.

This is the tale of a man who is a drunken, gambling, womanizing malcontent. He has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and yet something about his story compels you to read further. As the novel begins, Owen is awakening from another of his habitual stupors. He’s falling down drunk, crawling around on the floor, being sick enough to call a few toilet yodels, all before heading off to another thankless day at work.

Right away, as a reader you find nothing to root for in this cat, and he only gets worse.

Owen has no luck, and never had any. He blames everyone for his station, but himself. He is one of those tedious people who never seemed to take life or his responsibilities very seriously. As Owen stumbles off to his soulless gig, he is busy cursing the world and damning his place in it… but then something quite unexpected happens. The hapless Owen sees a pocketbook on the ground, picks it up and discovers it’s filled with thousands of dollars in cash!

He can’t believe his sudden change of fortune. He chooses not to listen to that quiet inner voice of common decency. He doesn’t even search the contents for any I.D. He simply takes the money, tosses the pocketbook aside, and goes on this way with plans to spend it on endless boozing and wild fits debauchery.

However, this one act of selfish uncaring leads to a tragic set of events. Here, the author takes an ironic twist in storytelling and it is a brilliantly effective one. Without giving too much away, finding the money leads Owen Fiddler on a journey into a deeper darkness.

The novel shifts back in time to when Owen was a boy and details how so often the choices we make in our youth can haunt us for the rest of our lives. Owen is abusive to everyone, has little regard for his mother and brother, and cheats at games played with his friends. He steals a bike from the neighborhood, and runs away when the cops show up at his home. In running away, Owen unknowingly enters into a newer darker strange world filled with runners and pimps, dealers and hardcore criminals. No longer homeward bound, the boy doesn’t look back. Instead, he becomes a street kid who embraces the fake freedom of never going to school and doing as he damn-well pleases. His life now consists of having sex with loose women before his time, and running drugs for the big boys uptown. Once busted by a plain-clothes cop, juvenile detention awaits him. Life there is worse than ever, and when he finally emerges, he is a hardened teen, unready and unwilling to embrace a new life with his family.

The precarious events of Owen’s story are harrowing and filled with the terrible details of what can happen when we fail to acknowledge our blessings, refuse to accept the onus of our actions, and neglect to live up to our potential.

Owen is good at only one thing: sex. His earlier experiences taught him well in that department, and with this skill he is rarely at a lack for fast-food companionship. What he does lack is the vision to look inward and to believe in something real and necessary for his own personal happiness.

What is so fascinating about this book is that for all his peccadilloes, everyone knows an Owen Fiddler. He’s that cat who doesn’t give a damn; the one who will always find some lame excuse for his behavior, and curses most anyone who comes into his path. He dismisses his mother’s love and rejects his caring stepfather. He despises his younger brother for being everything good and decent that Owen clearly isn’t. Once he finds a kind and beautiful woman who actually loves him, and he cheats on her during their honeymoon. He is his own worst enemy, and yet he doesn’t have the clarity or the guts to realize it.

I didn’t much like Owen, the man. But I loved Owen Fiddler, the novel.

Of course, even a troubled soul like Owen can’t go through his journey without some sort of redemption, and it is here the author surprises, astounds and enlightens his reader.

The closing chapters of this superior story elevated the form of visual-spiritual-transcendent writing for me. It was so otherworldly, so perfect in detail, so imaginatively rendered that it stunned my eyes and warmed my soul.

I used to think that for something to be Great, it had to make me cry. I’m not an easy crier, so to find greatness was always a challenge. This book didn’t make me cry (though the final confession scene between Owen and his ex-wife Jewel DID make me a tad misty). No. Art is truly Great when it makes us think of things differently, view them with new and different eyes and challenge the old perceptions we once held.

Author Marvin Wilson managed this SUPERBLY with the story of Owen Fiddler. The writer uses an eloquent language to elevate his tale. His descriptions are often poetic and lyrical to the point where they reach elegance, even in a story that reveals so little beauty until its memorable conclusion. He took me into a world I always knew existed, but always did my best to avoid.

Being one who doesn’t like to be hit over the head with religion lessons, Owen Fiddler made me appreciate that The Word doesn’t necessarily need to bombard us in order to be FELT, digested or absorbed. This is a morality tale at its finest.

Wilson, as the writer-storyteller became a wicked force, a sexy force, a spiritual force, and most of all, an Enlightened force. Once turning the final page of this opus, I could honestly say I felt CHANGED from having read it.

What more can any writer ask from an audience?

If you want an unexpected surprise, I would highly suggest you pick up Owen Fiddler by Marvin Wilson. In it, you will find deceptively wrapped in a shroud of darkness, one of life’s most shining gifts.

Snatch JOY, and snatch this book!

You can find it at: Owen Fiddler

It can also be purchased on, at: Owen