Taking My Half out of the Middle

Fiction - Social Issues
415 Pages
Reviewed on 05/04/2020
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Ouen Owen is a pen name . Why a pen name? Because Ouen does not want to be disowned (or “unfriended”) by people he cares about because of something one of his characters says. This need for anonymity when writing a book that even touches on politics is, itself, a sad reflection of our times.

Without giving too much away, we can tell you that Ouen likes road trips and ballroom dancing, and that he has a somewhat ambiguous relationship with dogs. He owns a van rather like Möbli, and used it to drive every mile of Jack’s journey in preparation for writing the book.

The pen name Ouen Owen was chosen for a reason, by the way. Fans of Agatha Christie may have fun puzzling it out.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Taking My Half out of the Middle is a work of fiction that hybridizes political essays and travel genres. It is aimed at all ages and was penned by author Ouen Owen. The book tells the tale of a road trip between two brothers of different political leanings, with a centrist point of view character and his ultra-liberal brother on a journey to visit their elderly mother at her commune. As the centrist Jack writes a series of essays to defend his centrist political positions, the journey causes him to undergo a voyage of self-discovery when he reflects on the values he holds dear. What results is an emotive and thought-provoking read.

Author Ouen Owen has created a truly engaging piece which is unique in its presentation and combination of fictional storylines with modern political thinking. I enjoyed the essays under their own merit, particularly in view of the current struggles we are enduring as a planet, and then when you layer the tale of Jack, Donny and their family life over the top, it contextualizes where these ideas truly come from within us and makes them ever more relatable. Owen also writes with a smooth narration and a shift in style which keeps the essay clean and crisp but also marries the wordplay and atmosphere well with the storytelling voice. It is apparent that the work is achieved by a keen political thinker and a talented writer, and overall I would certainly recommend Taking My Half out of the Middle to all readers seeking a new perspective to explore.

Rabia Tanveer

Taking My Half Out of the Middle by Ouen Owen is the story of a man who just went on a trip with his brother to visit their mother, but he found a lot more than he bargained for along the way. Jack Donnelly and his brother Donny agreed to travel from California all the way over to Montana to visit their mother. They started the journey with the intention of going to Montana for a couple of days and driving back home to their lives. However, the journey is much more vigorous than they anticipated. They come across upheavals, they come across challenges and they come across things that make them reflect on themselves more than they bargained for. Jack is forced to rethink his life, understand it on a deeper level, and find out what he really is made of. Even Jack is surprised by what he is capable of and how much he can overcome.

Taking My Half Out of the Middle by Ouen Owen is an interesting story. Usually, I don’t enjoy books written in the first-person narrative, but this is different. Reading these letters to the readers was like talking to a friend who I haven’t seen for years. There is a feeling of nostalgia in the narrative. I could feel the lightness the author felt while writing this story and, because of that, I could appreciate it more. The way Jack tried his best in some rather difficult situations and how he powered through them all was very encouraging. This is his coming of age story where he finds out what he is capable of and how much he can move forward if only he takes a chance. This is a good life lesson and an encouraging companion to anyone who is looking for a friend to keep them company.

Romuald Dzemo

Taking My Half out of the Middle by Ouen Owen is a fascinating, thoughtful narrative that entertains and inspires. It is a story that involves adventure and the author’s process of self-discovery. In this novel, a writer and essayist, Jack Donnelly, takes readers on his journey from Cupertino, California to the “Cooperative and Sustainable Living Association” (CASLA) compound near Helena, Montana, taking in the Morley Nelson Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. Joined by his brother, Donny, to visit their mom in her new home at CASLA, the author intends to use this journey to gain inspiration for his essays, but more comes into it. It turns out to be an experience that is hugely revealing and that strips the protagonist, allowing him a face to face encounter with his own vulnerability, his strengths, and humanity.

The writing is unique, defying conventions, and perhaps that is what this author set out to do, for he even reflects on issues that are as trivial as the right pronoun to use. But this novel is transporting, engaging readers in journeys that can be read from different perspectives: the political and philosophical, the physical and metaphorical. While the author journeys through exciting landscapes, his mind explores the social conundrum of his age. The writing is filled with social and cultural as well as political commentaries. Readers will also enjoy the insights about life that are littered throughout the writing. It is unusual how he addresses the reader in the narrative, but this style makes the reader experience a strange familiarity with the narrative and gets them engaged in the discussion. Taking My Half out of the Middle is an engaging and compelling story that invites readers to think about some of the absurdities of life and to question some of the things they believe.

Mamta Madhavan

Taking My Half Out of the Middle by Ouen Owen chronicles the metaphorical and literary journey of Jack Donnelly and the events that took place in the summer of 2010. The political and philosophical journey of Jack Donnelly and his brother Donny to Helena, Montana, to visit their mother, was more of a proposal to shake Donny out of his lethargy so that he would get more serious when it came to his authorial ambitions. Jack thought he and Donny could take the trip together and set aside time morning and evening to write. The physical journey would take them from Cupertino, California to the CASLA (Cooperative and Sustainable Living Association) compound near Helena, Montana, taking in the Morley Nelson Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park along the way to enjoy the spectacular sights of the West. As the book progresses, Jack's essays, which were meant to speak about his political views, end up being his journey of self-discovery.

Written in the format of essays, Taking My Half Out of the Middle by Ouen Owen gives glimpses of interesting discussions of Jack Donnelly's Muddy Middle politics and he asks readers to keep an open mind instead of judging his political views. The book is personal, honest, and straightforward and gives readers views on various issues from his perspective. Lydon becoming Donny (Donny is not short for Donald), his view on breaking rules and addressing a grammatical issue which arises frequently in the book, and the influences from home after being raised in a household which is very liberal, help readers get to know Jack Donnelly better. Each chapter has different stories to tell which will keep readers entertained as they travel with Jack and Donny, and their time with the Damned Dog DeeDee, along with other interesting and wonderful experiences, will make readers curious about what happens next on their road trip. The book is a clever blend of storytelling and political insights woven together, and it reaches out to the common man, even to those who do not have any political views and inclinations.