The feeling you get while reading The Incredible Winston Browne is akin to the nostalgia you feel when watching The Andy Griffith Show. It’s a story about a small-town sheriff in the mid-1950s. But instead of Mayberry, NC, Sheriff Winston Browne lives in the northwestern panhandle town of Moab, Florida: population 912, elevation 17 feet, width 17 miles. Moab is a good-hearted community where gossip travels fast, and little league baseball practices and church socials are the most exciting activities.
Winston is a bachelor in his early 50s, a World War II veteran, the baseball coach, the coroner, a life-long Methodist, a fan of Samuel Clemens’ books, and a respected elected official. Also, like almost everyone else in Moab, he is a devoted Brooklyn Dodgers baseball fan. Unfortunately, he has been a smoker since he was a teenager. When he gets a terrible health diagnosis, Winston is determined to hide his illness from his friends for as long as possible. He has lead a solitary life and realizes how much he has missed out on. But all of that is about to change since Winston Browne still has a whole lot of living to do.
At the same time, a young girl named Jessie is being whisked away from a cultish religious organization up North whose new leader wants her dead. Barely escaping capture, Jessie eventually ends up in Moab and under the care of Winston’s friend, Eleanor Hughes. Eleanor, who is has been dating the same man for over 30 years, is undergoing a remarkable transformation of her own. Unfortunately, those Temple leaders will do whatever it takes to find Jessie and the woman named Ada who helped her escape. Since Jessie has refused to tell anyone where she came from, no one understands the seriousness of her situation.
This is a character-driven plot with a whole lot of heart. The story looks at what is a life well-lived, what makes a community, and what it is like to let others into our lives when it is least expected.
4.5-Stars. Book club and baseball fan recommended. I listened to the audiobook which was 9 hours and 15 minutes. It is narrated by the author, Sean Dietrich. The hardcover is 352 pages. This book was published on March 2, 2021.