Second Acts

Tim W. Brown

Winner of the 2010 London Book Festival Award for General Fiction.

Second Acts is a novel about time travel, a hermaphrodite Native American guide named Bunny who invents therapy, the world’s most beautiful labia, and the 19th century version of Oprah. Somebody, please make this movie! Dan Connor, a network administrator geek, time travels from the year 2015 into the past to follow his estranged wife, Rachel (possessor of aforementioned labia) who, along with her University of Chicago physicist boss, has become one the first people to accomplish the feat. All parties land successfully in the wilds of 19th century Illinois, near Chicago. 

When Dan discovers Listening Rabbit (nicknamed 'Bunny') on a vision quest, she volunteers to be his guide. Believing her to be a rather homely young woman, he’s later surprised to find out she’s actually a two-spirit 'berdache'—one of the most interesting aspects of this well-researched novel—with a gift for listening (thus, her name). The two follow the trail of Rachel and her boss, Bruce, through the woods to the big town, and then by boat from Chicago to New York. En route, they encounter various real historical personages: Albert Gallatin (founder of New York University), Sylvester Graham (early advocate of dietary reform and inventor of the Graham cracker), the Locofocos (radical faction of the Democratic Party circa the 1840s) and Lydia Maria Child (abolitionist and activist for the rights of Native Americans and women). 

The seamless weaving of these real characters into a plausible fiction narrative about time travel is the novel’s strength (as is the way in which all loose ends are tied up in a highly satisfying and logical conclusion). - Sharon Mesmer

"Half-magical, half-farcical, Second Acts is full of vitality and humor, a modern update of Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. A sly commentary upon the American past and present, Second Acts is also a ribald trip through the nineteenth-century frontier, told by modern-day Americans who take back with them not only their technological apparatus, their know-how and their weak morals, but also enough money to pave their streets with gold. It is a view of an America in which Chicago is named not for stinking onions but for hemp, in which New York's water supply is saved by a transvestite Native American's assault upon speculator Jay Gould, and in which a married couple re-ignites their love by traveling 175 years into the past. Second Acts is a sparkling gem of a book, one that inspires both contemplation and more than a few belly laughs." –Greg Downs, author of Spit Baths ( 2006 Flannery O’Connor Award winner)

“Really clicking, Second Acts is a picaresque, sci-fi/western, such as Verne or Welles might have penned it, but with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Tim W. Brown’s tale of a husband’s search for his fugitive wife takes readers on a whirlwind tour of America, circa 1830. In subverting history Brown’s tale celebrates it, with a scholar’s eye for authentic details and at a pacing so swift the pages give off a nice breeze.” –Peter Selgin, author of Life Goes to the Movies and Drowning Lessons (2008 Flannery O’Connor Award winner)

"With Second Acts Tim W. Brown may well have written his masterpiece. In this surprising, satisfying novel, he channels Twain, both by updating A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and through Bunny, Brown's most vivid character to date and an homage to Jim in Huckleberry Finn – and yet the end result is not at all derivative, but unexpectedly personal and unique. Brown's clever construction, arch humor and unforgiving candor are on hand as ever, but they're leavened this time by a goodly dose of heart, as he steers the protagonist and two other likable characters toward a renaissance of their own. Funny, engaging, relatable and even educational, it's a great read.” –Paul McComas, author of Planet of the Dates and Unplugged

Tim W. Brown

Tim W. Brown who is from Rockford, Illinois, graduated summa cum laude from Northern Illinois University with a degree in American studies. He is the author of three published novels, Deconstruction Acres (1997), Left of the Loop (2001) and Walking Man (2008). Brown’s fiction, poetry and nonfiction have appeared in over two hundred publications, including Another Chicago Magazine, The Bloomsbury Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Chelsea, Chiron Review, Colorado Review, The Ledge, Main Street Rag, New Observations, Oyez Review, Pleiades, Poetry Project Newsletter, Rain Taxi, Rockford Review, Slipstream, Small Press Review and Storyhead. Since 2004 he has been a member of the National Book Critics Circle, specializing in reviewing small-press publications. A long-time resident of Chicago, where he was a fixture in that city’s literary scene as a writer, performer and publisher of Tomorrow Magazine (1982-1999), Brown moved to New York in 2003. He currently earns his living as a technologist for global financial institutions.