Cover image for The adventures of Flash Jackson : a novel
The adventures of Flash Jackson : a novel
Kowalski, William, 1970-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [2003]

Physical Description:
vii, 310 pages ; 24 cm
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.6 16.0 78294.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Set in William Kowalski's signature town of Mannville, New York, The Adventures of Flash Jackson is the story of tomboyish Haley Bombauer and her ambition to bust out of the confines of her smalltown upbringing. With compassion and humor, the novel tells of her emergence into a world that, in her words, "was not designed with girls in mind," and her efforts to find a way to fit in without having to give up her beloved independence.

Introduced to a vivid and exciting imaginary life by her now-dead father, who bestowed upon her the nickname "Flash Jackson," Haley Bombauer confronts the summer of her seventeenth year with glorious anticipation. She envisions herself roaming the surrounding hillsides and forests on her beloved horse, Brother, venturing farther and farther away from her sleepy hometown and her ultracautious mother, who since the death of her husband has remained rooted firmly in the past.

But when Haley falls through the rotted roof of the barn, she is destined to spend the dog days of summer in a thigh-high cast, stuck at home with her mother, enduring visits from her spooky, unintelligible grandmother, pondering the error of her impulsive ways, and dreaming longingly of adventure. The year that follows will, in fact, transform not only her life but also the lives of those closest to her. Haley's "imprisonment" affords her peculiar grandmother the chance to see finally what the girl is made of-and to pass along some of the mysterious and mystical arts that only she remembers. As Haley comes to understand just who her grandmother is, and what the old woman can teach her, she is transformed-from a tomboy reluctant to accept her femininity to an extraordinary, powerful woman.

Steeped in imagery and lyricism, touched with the wisp of magical realism that has become William Kowalski's trademark, The Adventures Of Flash Jackson is a poignant and hilarious tale of self-discovery and the redemptive powers of love.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Haley Bombauer, otherwise known as Flash Jackson, resident of the rural outpost of Mannville, New York, recounts the story of her seventeenth year. After falling through the barn roof and breaking her leg in three places, the delightfully eccentric tomboy faces a summer of pain and boredom. Soon Haley begins to realize that she possesses the same type of mystical--and often misunderstood--abilities as her grandmother, a hermit renowned and reviled for her dual gifts of prophecy and healing. When her schizophrenic neighbor and one true friend dies tragically, she decides to stay with her grandmother in a primitive shed in the woods for a while. During her time at her grandmother's, Haley learns some painfully powerful lessons about life, independence, and womanhood. This poignant and entertaining coming-of-age novel resonates with homespun wit and truth. --Margaret Flanagan

Publisher's Weekly Review

This amusing, slightly bizarre novel by Kowalski (Eddie's Bastard) puts a supernatural spin on a familiar coming-of-age story. Seventeen-year-old tomboy Haley Bombauer lives with her widowed mother in upstate New York. Though they look much like anyone else, the Bombauer women are actually witches-or at least, Haley's reclusive grandmother is. Her mother has given up the family tradition, and Haley herself never took an interest until she breaks her leg and has to spend a summer recuperating indoors. She becomes so bored that she starts messing around with spells. At the urging of her mother, she moves in with her strict, forbidding grandmother, who teaches Haley the healing arts and some other skills. Though Haley is at first resistant, she gradually comes to embrace her special powers. When the outside world threatens to interfere with this dubious education, the old woman and her cabin vanish into thin air. Haley continues to live in the woods on her own; she eventually makes a partial return to civilization as the town healer, but not before she has an unlikely adventure with drug smugglers and a wild sexual encounter with a neighbor boy. Her exploits as a feral woodswoman are implausible even by the loose standards of this book and make for some comically absurd lines ("Note to self: When menstruating, bury used tampons very deep. Something has been digging them up lately. Something big"). Yet Haley is a winning narrator whose dry sense of humor keeps the celebration of womanhood from getting too syrupy. Agent, Anne Hawkins. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Kowalski's new work is not so much a coming-of-age as a coming-of-gender story. On the eve of her 17th birthday, Haley Bombauer falls through the barn roof and breaks her leg-a singular occurrence that changes her life and sets us all on an unusual journey. Early on, tomboy Haley had invented a persona that seemed more true to her nature, stuntman Flash Jackson. Haley's father, her partner in her acts of derring-do, was killed in an explosion of one of his inventions, leaving her alone with her less-than-free-spirited mother. Haley's maternal grandmother lives alone in the woods and is well known as a LEGITHATA (ladies extremely gifted in the healing and telepathic arts). With her leg in a cast, Haley goes to live in the woods to find out about Grandma's healing ways and learns more than she expected to about the beauty and community of nature, its creatures, and her place in the world. Haley is 24 as she narrates this story, but as readers we always feel that it is indeed a teenager-grumpy, ornery, and foul-mouthed-who is leading us through our paces. Somewhat fragmented overall and especially slow going in the woods section until Haley's final revelations, this book is not as compelling as Kowalski's first novel, Eddie's Bastard. Still, it is a solid purchase for public libraries.-Bette-Lee Fox, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The Adventures of Flash Jackson A Novel Chapter One Off the Barn On my very last day of being sixteen years old, I fell through the roof of our barn like a stone through ice and broke my leg in three places. Don't ask what I was doing up there to begin with -- I couldn't give you a straight answer. It had never entered my head to go up there before. I was just in a roof-climbing kind of mood, I guess -- the kind of mood that can overtake a farm girl sometimes on a hot July day, when she's bored out of her mind and thinking that if something wonderful and glamorous and exciting doesn't happen to her immediately, right that minute, she's going to go crazy. Like I said, it was my last day of being sixteen, and I guess I was feeling my oats a little. That's the only way I know how to explain it. Even a half-wit like my neighbor Frankie Grunveldt would have known better than to climb that barn. My great-great-grandfather built it about a thousand years ago, and the passage of time had turned it into one of those ancient, leaning weathered things that tourists and Sunday drivers think are so wonderful and quaint, but are really only eyesores and death traps. I was still in my good clothes. It was one of those rare Sundays when Mother had insisted I go to church with her. She got that particular bug up her butt about three times a year. I fought her hard on it, but she always won. Church was the one and only reason in the world I would wear a skirt. I had to, or Mother got upset. I think she had skirts and salvation kind of mixed up in her mind -- you couldn't get one if you weren't wearing the other, at least if you were a girl. I had compromised by wearing my ratty old canvas high-tops, the most comfortable things I owned. I never wore socks. I was always taking off my sneakers, tree climbing being an art best performed barefoot, and socks just had to be balled up and stuffed somewhere. One time I stuck them in my bra and forgot they were there. That got me a lecture, I can tell you -- but not the kind you might expect. Mother said, "If you're going to stuff yourself, young lady, at least do it in a way that won't let the whole world know you're doing it." That's Mother for you. I guess she was relieved, thinking maybe I was trying to catch the eye of some slack-mouthed idiot of a farm boy. She had pretty much given up on me becoming a normal girl, but occasionally she was still given to flashes of hope -- or random moments of insanity, as I prefer to think of them. Well, she had another think coming, as they say. I wasn't interested in farm boys, with their ropelike arms and their beetle brows. I wasn't interested in any boys. I was just interested in being me, whatever that entailed. If that happened to involve a boy, okay. If not, I wasn't going to shed any tears. Climbing trees is hard work, and according to Mother it's not very ladylike, but neither of those things have ever posed much of an obstacle to me. I like getting a little sweaty, and there isn't a tree within two miles of our place I haven't climbed at least once. None of them seemed as challenging as our barn. Yet once I got up on the lower branches I swung across to the overhanging roof, and that was it. I was up. I crawled up the roof on all fours until I arrived at the peak, where the weather vane that looked like a bear had kept watch since the barn was erected. I couldn't remember a time when it hadn't been rusted in place. I decided I was going to get that weather vane pointing right again. I worked it around until it creaked free, and I spit into the socket a couple of times until it moved without screeching. Then, feeling mighty satisfied with myself, I stood up and took a look around. From that distance I could just see the town of Mannville, founded first as Clare Town sometime in the early 1800s, then renamed after our Great Benefactor, the Almighty William Amos Mann, Hero of the Civil War, a raggedy old bastard we all had to learn about in school. Mannville at that distance was a few rooftops and a church spire. I could also see Lake Erie, a thin blue smudge that hung over the town like smoke. My last conscious preaccident memory is that I'd finally managed to accomplish something interesting and useful in my life by getting up higher in the world than ever before, when damned if the roof didn't give way and I woke up later that afternoon in the hospital. That's life, my father would've said. You can work and work to get to the top, but you still never know when everything is going to collapse under you. I don't remember falling, which I guess is probably a good thing. Otherwise, I might have come out of the whole mess with a fear of heights. I'd never been afraid of heights before, you see, so it would have been a real shame if I'd started then. Oh yes: my name is Haley Bombauer, I am now twenty-something years old (not to be rude, but I'm already getting to the age where it's none of your business) and I'm not afraid of a blessed thing on this earth, no man or woman or beast or barn. Well -- actually -- I do admit snakes make me squeamish ... The Adventures of Flash Jackson A Novel . Copyright © by William Kowalski. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from The Adventures of Flash Jackson: A Novel by William Kowalski All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.