The Adventures of Flash Jackson, a first-person coming-of-age novel by William Kowalski (Eddie's Bastard, Somewhere South of Here), takes place on the edge of Lake Erie in Mannville, NY. At the onset of summer, seventeen-year old Haley Bombauer breaks her leg after falling through the decrepit roof of an aging barn. For the most part, she is confined to her home, forcing her to discover more about herself and the lives of her mother and eccentric-hermit grandmother than she ever could have dreamed.
Flash Jackson is Haley's alter-ego. When she was a little girl, she and her father played unlady-like stunt-style games, and they created the "Flash Jackson" nickname for these escapades. The name stuck, even after — or maybe because of — her father's death.
Ever since, her continued tomboy behavior has driven both her mother and grandmother crazy, because she seems willfully incapable of acting like a young lady.
Haley is an eccentric, likeable character, strong-willed and fun. Despite her engaging personality, she does not have many friends; there is no line of visitors stopping by the house to wish her well. Except for spending time with her mother, a person
for whom she can't exactly see a use, she fears she is doomed to spend the summer alone.
Haley and Elizabeth Powell meet when she happens to hobble by one afternoon. Though Haley is initially convinced that
the woman will bore her to death, she is genuinely surprised to find she enjoys spending time drinking tea and talking with this woman who left Manville during World War II in search of her own adventure.
Frankie Grunveldt, a harmless man with mental problems, also befriends the young girl. When he disappears from the area, Haley's mother tries to comfort his worried parents. Haley is certain Frankie is fine and not far away at all, but she calls on her grandmother for help.
Haley's grandmother is an interesting woman, an Old Order Mennonite who lives off the land in the woods in a home you can't reach by car. Many people visit the old woman when they need something: she has a mystical power she calls The Veil. Some call her a healer. She can see things, find things, make the sick well. Haley shares this mystical power, and
she wants to understand how to learn to use the veil. So it is she decides to spend the rest of the summer living with her grandmother.
It is not immediately apparent that the two women love and respect each other; they drive each other crazy. But during the time they spend together, Haley is clearly transformed from a sassy teen into a surprisingly mature young lady. The bond that joins her to her grandmother becomes great and unbreakable.
The Adventures of Flash Jackson is often humorous, rich with the narrative voice of a teenage girl. The characters are strongly developed,
but the reader gets only as much insight into them as Haley can understand and nothing more. The story is different and entertaining with fresh dialogue and a lively narrative. Though some parts are dry, overdone, or out of character for Haley, as a whole the book works.