The pre-Civil War South comes brilliantly to life in this masterfully written novel about a mysterious and charismatic healer readers won't soon forget.
Mississippi plantation mistress Amanda Satterfield loses her daughter to cholera after her husband refuses to treat her for what he considers to be a "slave disease." Insane with grief, Amanda takes a newborn slave child as her own and names her Granada, much to the outrage of her husband and the amusement of their white neighbors. Troubled by his wife's disturbing mental state and concerned about a mysterious plague sweeping through his slave population, Master Satterfield purchases Polly Shine, a slave reputed to be a healer. But Polly's sharp tongue and troubling predictions cause unrest across the plantation. Complicating matters further, Polly recognizes "the gift" in Granada, the mistress's pet, and a domestic battle of wills ensues.
Seventy-five years later, Granada, now known as Gran Gran, is still living on the plantation and must revive the buried memories of her past in order to heal a young girl abandoned to her care. Together they learn the power of story to heal the body, the spirit and the soul.
Rich in mood and atmosphere, The Healing is the kind of novel readers can't put down - and can't wait to recommend once they've finished.
Ella was awake when she heard the first timid knock at the cabin door. Her husband, who lay beside her on the corn-shuck mattress, snored undisturbed. She kept still as well, not wanting to wake the newborn that slept in the crook of her arm. The baby had cried most of the night and had only just settled into a fitful sleep. Ella couldn't blame the girl for being miserable. The room was intolerably hot.
Like everybody else in the quarter, Ella believed the cholera was carried by foul nocturnal vapors arising from the surrounding swamp, so she and Thomas kept their shutters and doors closed tight against the night air, doing their best to protect their daughter from the killing disease that had already taken so many.
The rapping on the door became more insistent. Ella pushed against Thomas with her foot. On the second shove he awoke with a snort.
"Thomas! See to the door," she whispered, "and mind Yewande."
Wearing only a pair of cotton trousers, Thomas eased himself from the bed and ...
Some of the recent comments posted about The Healing. Join the discussion! You can see the full discussion here.
A number of recent books explore injustices due to racial bias. Why do you think these stories are being written now?
Rebajane, what an insightful statement and one that I had not thought, as all the authors/books that I mentioned were indeed written by women. - debracoley
Do you think Granada ever becomes free? How do the other Satterfield slaves satisfy their need for belonging after freedom?
I don't think Granada ever really understood freedom until she is able to go back and recount her life with Violet. The pieces did not fit until she was able to look back and see it through the eyes of an old woman who life is coming to an end. - luisaao
Do you think Old Silas believes his cant about slavery and then changes his mind, or do you think it was an act?
I believe Old Silas was simply looking out for himself. Before Polly, it was to his advantage to say he believed slavery was an advantage. Polly allowed him to see advantages to escape ,therefore he changed his thoughts. - trezelineb
Does servitude under a kind tyrant make such a system less objectionable or more?
Slaves were property. Some slave owners might treat their working people better than others did, but the slaves were still in bondage. Nothing made it right. I don't know how they could deal with suddenly being free in a land that didn't value ... - jeann
Double Standards in Slavery....
I think it was a power play more than anything. The experts say that rape is more about power over another human being than about love or affection or even pleasure. So, I suspect that the white masters sleeping with their female slaves is just one... - gwendolyndawson
Whether or not this is possible - if a group of people can heal, can reclaim identity when it has been brutally stripped from them and then cruelly withheld - is one of the central questions of the novel. In this way, The Healing becomes much more than a historical fiction novel set in the antebellum South. As it contemplates how people are repatriated into their dormant identities, the novel ruminates on the ways in which people define themselves and whether it is possible to heal the horrors of the past to embrace the opportunities of the future. The Healing is a tremendously powerful novel and one of the best I have read in quite some time. Jonathan Odell has created a masterpiece.
(Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).
Full Review (1388 words).
Slave Healers in the Antebellum South
If you liked The Healing, try these:
In the midst of the American Civil War, a southern plantation owner's wife is arrested by her husband and declared insane for interfering with his slaves. She is sent to an island mental asylum to come to terms with her wrongdoing, but instead finds love and escape with a war-haunted Confederate soldier.
This is a story about men whose lives began in slavery, who weathered the Civil War; newly freed men who have to fight for their liberties, hoping the federal government will come to their aid. But after a deadly racial massacre, once-proud families are left to deal with the wreckage and find the strength to push on.
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