Michael Strelow weaves the story of a town and its mysteries in his debut novel, The Greening of Ben Brown, a 2005 Oregon Book Award Finalist for fiction. Ben Brown, the protagonist, becomes a citizen of East Leven, Oregon, after he recovers from an electrocution that has not killed him but has turned him green. He befriends eighteen-year-old Andrew James, and together they unearth a chemical spill cover-up that forces the town to confront its demons and its citizens to choose sides. Strelow’s lyrical prose and his talent for storytelling come together in this poetic and important first work that looks at how a town and the natural environment are inextricably linked. The Greening of Ben Brown will find itself in good company on the shelves between Winesburg, Ohio and To Kill a Mockingbird and readers of both will have a new story to cherish.
Oregon Book Awards
Michael Strelow has given Northwest readers an amazing fable for our time and place featuring Ben Brown, a utility lineman who transforms into the Green Man following an industrial accident. Eco-Hero and prophet, the Green Man heads a cast of wonderful and zany characters who ﬁxate over sundry items from ﬁlberts to hubcaps. A timely raid on a company producing heavy metals galvanizes Strelow’s mythical East Leven as much as the Boston Tea Party rallied Boston. Fascinating, humorous, and wise, The Greening of Ben Brown deserves its place on bookshelves along with other Northwest classics.
- Craig Lesley
- Author of Storm Riders
If the Green Man of medieval lore appeared in Oregon – the mystic version of Strelow’s Oregon – and if the ghost of Kesey helped keep the tale irreverent but strangely tender for place, person, and our chance, then you would hold in your hands The Greening of Ben Brown. And so you do. Let this quiet mystery take you where you need to be.
- Kim Stafford
- Author of The Muses Among Us and Other Pleasures of the Writer’s Craft
With its richly cultivated and carefully tended prose, The Greening of Ben Brown is a compelling examination of community and what it means to love the land, for, as these characters teach us, there shall never be another quite like it.
- Gina Ochsner
- Author of The Necessary Grace to Fall
The Greening of Ben Brown is about communities, physical and emotional. It is a tale of wonders and everyday things. This is a wise book. While it might seem to be intrinsically about the Northwest, it is about universal things. Not many novels mean as much, entertain as much and stimulate as much as The Greening of Ben Brown.
- Salem Statesman Journal
The Greening of Ben Brown is an intriguing debut novel.
- The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
An English teacher at Willamette University, Strelow resonates as both poet and storyteller. In creating inhabitants of a town, its central figure and a strong sense of place, he lays on description lavishly, almost breathlessly, in both broad and detailed strokes. The author lovingly invokes a particular brand of Pacific Northwest magic realism, a blend of fable, social realism, wry wisdom and irreverence that brings to mind Ken Kesey, Tom Robbins and the best elements of a low-key mystery.
- The Oregonian
Strelow’s powerful descriptive language in The Greening of Ben Brown proves beyond a doubt that he is an author to watch in the future.
- Jackson Free Press
Michael Strelow’s prose is wonderfully descriptive, especially in describing the natural characteristics of East Leven, and clearly demonstrates his affection for the state he’s called home for more than thirty years.
- The Absinthe Literary Review