The Night I Freed John Brown

The Night I Freed John Brown

by John Michael Cummings

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From School Library Journal

Grade 7–10—Josh lives in Harpers Ferry, WV, in an aging limestone house with his two bullying older brothers, timid mother, and tyrannical father. Known for its connections to legendary historical figures such as John Brown and Frederick Douglass, the town attracts many visitors. Living in its fishbowl atmosphere brings shame and anger to Josh's father but evokes joy and creativity in their new neighbors, the Richmonds. Josh envies everything about Luke Richmond. He envies his new friend's normal brothers, kind father, and beautiful house, which is almost an exact duplicate of the abandoned house Josh's father grew up in on the outskirts of town. Explanations for his father's anger, the abandoned house, and other family secrets are revealed just as Josh's world comes crashing down around him. The pacing of the story is slow and the characters are one-dimensional and oftentimes stereotypical. The metaphors involving John Brown are often forced and the historical relationship between Brown's acts and Josh's experiences will be lost on many teens. The author attempts to address too many conflicts—family dysfunction, corruption in the Catholic Church, John Brown's legacy—and fails to bring about a convincing resolution to any of them. While there is some action and adventure, this title will appeal to a limited number of young adults.—Lynn Rashid, Marriots Ridge High School, Marriotsville, MD

Product Details

BN ID: 2940012440549
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date: 05/06/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 251
File size: 659 KB

About the Author

John Michael Cummings (born 1963 in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia) is an American short story writer and novelist. His short stories have appeared in more than seventy-five literary journals, including North American Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Chattahoochee Review, The Kenyon Review, and The Iowa Review. Twice he has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. His short story "The Scratchboard Project" received an honorable mention in The Best American Short Stories 2007.

Cummings lives in Orlando, Florida, with his cat Sentry.

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Night I Freed John Brown 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
TraceyOliv on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Loved reading this wonderful book. Could not stop reading it especially the last 10 chapters. An exciting story with many twists and turns until the dramatic conclusion. A superb story that blends the character Josh's childhood living in historic Harper's Ferry with John Brown and many secrets and dramatic happenings. I highly recommend this book for readers both young and old. You will not be disappointed.
sentry255 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Josh knows that his father can't stand hearing church bells, or talk of his hometown's famous John Brown, that he angrily hides from his neighbors and is letting their rusting shack of a house fall down around their ears. Josh knows the mysterious white house his dad grew up in ¿ now fallen into ghostly ruin ¿ has its exact twin next door. What he doesn't know is why.John Michael Cummings' debut novel, The Night I Freed John Brown, mixes domestic drama, American history, adventure story, and page-turning mystery. There are marvelous plot twists and surprises right to the very end. One can't help liking young Josh, no matter how flawed he may be. He's funny, vulnerable, tough, and observant: "There was nothing like a big event to make you feel poor and ugly inside."Humor and sadness lie cheek by jowl: "There was my poor mother, putting Lemon Pledge on her pieces of junk. She made me want to cry." Cummings [who recently relocated to Central Florida and will have a book signing today at Urban Think! Bookstore downtown] writes with distinctive West Virginia flavor: "They were as different as chicory and crabgrass." And his prose can be pure poetry: "Luke turned in a complete circle, and I turned with him, slowly, as if we were tiny figures in a music box, the strange house turning around us, without the music."Historic Harper's Ferry sits at a confluence where "two rivers, one green and fast, the other brown and slow, came together in the shape of a giant wishbone." Maryland rises on one side, Virginia on the other. It also represents the confluence of past, present, and future. The Night I Freed John Brown is all about heroes, both sung and unsung. At the center, of course, stands John Brown himself: "I stepped across the street and up to the picture window that held all six feet two inches of John Brown over the street like a glass coffin turned up on its end." But, as the novel proves, some of our greatest heroes are the living, hidden in plain sight.--The Boston Globe
Aminahcc More than 1 year ago
"The Night I Freed John Brown" captures the essence of youthful bewilderment and its desire to be loved, accepted, understood, and valued. This is a very compelling story of a teen's experiences in tourist town, Harper's Ferry, WV. Mr. Cummings captures the imagination of Josh as he deals with his unfortunate circumstances of growing up with a father riddled with a bitterness that shows itself in their tattered home. It shares the torment of trying to understand and love a father with a secret he cannot share until events bring the family to an impossible situation that cannot be healed without its unveiling. The story brings moments of laughter, hope, shock, and sorrow as the troubled youth tries desperately to find self worth and acceptance and familial love. It rivets forward as Josh pushes for truth as hard as his father pushes to lock down his secret.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
3.5 stars The Night I Freed John Brown is about a boy who grows up in modern day Harpers Ferry. He has a father who doesn't allow him to do anything. He has a rule about the house no one in no one out. His two brothers are trouble makers who disturb everyone they can. His mother is a very kind woman who just wants the old house they live in to be revised Josh is a teenager who feels trapped in his house and his only escape is the Richmond's house where he can hang out with Luke and his "normal" family. Josh is starting to realize that his family has a lot of secrets and his discovery of "cowmint" brings some of them to light and he doesn't expect what he finds out, and he will discover things about his father he never expected to be true. After reading this book I have got a few things to say about it. Its got a ton of twists and turns that you will never see coming but it also has a bit of mystery that brings back for more. I've got to say that I can't wait for the next book by John Michael Cummings When I first picked up this book I didn't think it would be as good as it was but after this book I have really gotten an interest in this authors work. The book would lead you to believe one thing then turn it around and reveal another it just keeps you guessing and I like that about this book All in all this entire book was very exciting and I enjoyed every minute of reading it. Hopefully more authors can publish books of this quality.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book The Night I Freed John Brown kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time reading it. John Michael Cummings writing style was flawless. It is so descriptive that I feel that I am in the book. The theme of the book is family will always stick behind you, and there is nothing better than a friend. I felt that it was a breath taking book. The setting takes place in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. Josh and his new neighbor Luke become best friends. Luke is a lot more fortunate than Josh. He has a wonderful dad, beautiful house, and amazing brothers. Josh on the other hand has a rundown house, his dad is physically and emotionally abusive, and his brothers are mean to him. John Michael Cummings writing style is both unique and interesting. He has an amazing vocabulary and knows how to put you into the book. For example, "We had just entered a jungle like world. Vines curled down like snakes, and dark trees stood around like villains and thieves. Blanketing the ground were purple wildflowers and gooey webs of silver leaves. Dead ahead were the ghostly white ruins of a chapel, its jagged walls biting up through the black earth like bad teeth. The book has many exciting moments which include disobeying direct orders from a father, fighting, and a lot of orneriness. "Soon blue lights whipped through the dark trees on the hill, and a ranger Jeep roared into the alley, its headlights flooding down the walls of the Harper House, catching our sweaty faces". In this book Josh wants to find out why his father acts the way he does toward the family, When all of the sudden he finds something that will give him the edge in finding out. Compared to other fiction books this one will really keep you interested. It makes you want to stay up and read all night. This is one of the most descriptive and exciting books I have read in a very long time. In the book includes fighting and mysteriousness. It also teaches a lesson on friendship and family.
ERICA_SYVERSON More than 1 year ago
By ERICA SYVERSON / Pulse Correspondent Coming from a writer, the description of what goes on inside a writer's head can get pretty complicated. If you were to remove the skullcap of an author like Harpers Ferry, W.Va.-born John Cummings, you might see rolling out a mash of John Updike, 15 years worth of writing, and some Springsteen lyrics. Cummings' first published novel, "The Night I Freed John Brown," (see review at left) was released at the end of May, but the Pulse team had the opportunity to grab a word with the author prior to the release date just to see what kinds of things he rolls around upstairs. Cummings says a lot of his work is autobiographical. This is especially true of "The Night I Freed John Brown." He said he drew a lot of inspiration from "precious memories of growing up around Harper's Ferry," where the book takes place. Every writer faces obstacles like pacing a story and creating a strong plot, but imagine not even knowing you always wanted to be a writer. Cummings set out for a college art degree and wound up graduating without an interest in art at all. A long-lost love of words drove him to get a job as a reporter. But he struggled with a desire to put his own perceptions in his writing, thus breaking a cardinal rule of journalism. Cummings has published some 75 short stories in the past 15 years. He calls them fiction, though he says they are true stories that have been with him his whole life. He calls them "invented truths," meaning he changed names and other aspects to protect the real people involved in these events. Sometimes memories are tricky things to work with in writing. What is private? What should stay a memory, not put into writing? Cummings says he never had fear or self-consciousness about using his childhood as the foundation for his writing. There is an "innate trust in putting words on paper," he says, and he has no trouble expressing himself. Maybe tackling the description of what goes on inside a writer's head isn't so difficult after all.
mikemartinwriter More than 1 year ago
What a remarkable book. I haven't read any of the author's noted short fiction, so I can't comment on how this compares to it. But what I can say is that this is a work of the highest quality. The book has rare emotional insight, and the language is often startingly lovely. I was also impressed by the author's nuanced portrayal of adults in the book: That's all too rare in the young adult field these days. In a time when so much of young adult literature features ham-handed plots without any depth, THE NIGHT I FREED JOHN BROWN proves that you can be stirring, intelligent, frightening and thrilling all at once. Coming from a guy who reads 100+ YA books a year, trust me: This is one not to be missed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beans_on_Toast More than 1 year ago
A charming book for young readers and adults alike. Fascinating recollection of life in tourist-driven Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Young Josh is sensitive, artistic, curious and hopeful... yet burdened with the shame of his family's history, social standing and often embarrassing behavior. He's ultimately an optimist who believes in making things right¿though there are several instances where his good intentions don't turn out the way he intends. Kudos to John Michael Cummings for a delightful first novel!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Night I Freed John Brown is a wonderful story, beautifully told. Containing elements appealing to young adults, the book's mystery and underlying family conflict speak universally to adults, too. Well written and carefully crafted, it is a successful first novel. I'm looking forward to more from this obviously sensitive author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great summer read and I've been recommending it to all of my friends. Few have Cummings' talent for detail and sophistication with words.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down. This is a wonderful first book by John Michael Cummings, a book for adults as well as young readers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
JM Cummings does a masterful job. I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This read introduces modern times to history for the young and old. The brilliant character development really makes you feel like you're part of the story. A great novel...
Guest More than 1 year ago
'The Night I Freed John Brown' is a thought-provoking, insightful story in the guise of a young-adults' book. The author's prose is straightforward, but it is marvelously crafted and filled with lovely rhythms and highly visual metaphors. Similarly, underneath the novel's brisk storytelling and deceptively simple surface the author strings together a complex group of elements--dark psychological undertones, family conflict, pangs of envy, the need to conquer (or at least confront) one's fears, great sensitivity to the unique history of the location, and deep feeling for both adoloscent vitality and teenaged uncertainty. Highly recommended!
Guest More than 1 year ago
John Cummings' descriptions place one in the shoes of the young narrator in this novel of growing up and finding one's place in a town of historic note. The story is full of the impact of townsfolk on a young man's life and is vividly reminiscent of all of the foibles of a journey into adolescence. Cummings is an author from whom we can learn much in developing our own personal histories. I eagerly await his next novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'The Night I Freed John Brown' is a wonderfully written book by John Cummings. The storyline just seems to flow along just like the river that flows by Harpers Ferry. The storyline grabs your atention and you want to hurry up to finish it to see how the story ends. This is an excellent fast read for our young readers. I hope Mr. Cummings will do a sequel to his debut novel!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Outstanding!!! I couldn't put it down!!! I read it from cover to cover in one night. I highly recommend this book to all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Cunningham understands the preadolescent child, parents who grapple with raising their children, and the Catholic church. I loved his treatment of the 'outsider' child in the family and the sensitivity he brings to this beautifully written story. The bonus is the modern-day setting in Harpers Ferry, WV and the history of John Brown and the relationship he had with his own sons.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book honestly kept me turning the pages and it gave me a good feeling inside. It's a great book and I highly recommend it for readers both young and old.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Exquisite and brilliant. Luminous as the silver screen. A bewitching, exciting, heartfelt tale, the kind you want to hunker down on a rainy day in a comfy chair and read straight through until dark. Like some artists paint on canvas, others sculpt with clay, John Michael Cummings paints and sculpts the story, like a renaissance man with the master use of words.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
Josh's life is full of secrets. First, there's the huge Victorian mansion, full of mysterious happenings and lies, that stands over the town. There's something strange and haunting about it, something scary and odd... Then there's his difficult father, secluding his family from the rest of the world, hiding them from the the tourists that mob their town. And the tourists are a whole other matter themselves-they come to admire the statue of John Brown 'the man that Josh's father despises for an odd reason' that makes Josh's small West-Virginian village so famous but seems to drive his dad so crazy. Can Josh figure out the secrets of Harpers Ferry, his dad's web of lies, and the secret of John Brown before it's too late? This enthralling and intriguing mystery by John Michael Cummings is a beautiful story that readers ages 11 and up will adore. This book came out in May, so go buy it right now or else you'll be missing out! The cover seems more boy-oriented, but I think that other girls like myself would enjoy The Night I Freed John Brown, too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Josh has many unanswered questions in his life: questions about mysterious houses and strange priests and delinquent relatives. But however much he yearns for answers, it doesn't seem likely that he'll get any from his nasty father. Finding no pleasure at his own home, Josh seeks comfort at his next door neighbors', the Richmonds, house. The questions, however, only build when Josh discovers roped-off rooms and completely empty closets. Josh knows that the answers to his questions are secrets, and carefully guarded ones, at that. But even so, he is determined to discover what it is that his father is hiding- what it is that is 'following' him. What happened to the stolen items in his grandmother's house? Who is this Father Ron character that his dad seems to dislike so much? Speaking of his dad, why is he always so angry? Why can't he be warm and friendly like Mr. Richmond? Why do the Richmond kids always get everything, while Josh and his older brothers, Jerry and Robbie, are stuck with unneighborly parents and a run-down house? And then- get ready for the night that will change everything, the night that will answer all of Josh's question, the night he frees John Brown. Readers will be intrigued by and thoroughly enjoy this page-turner-- John Michael Cummings's debut novel, 'The Night I Freed John Brown', a remarkable coming-of-age story.