Reading guide for The Healing by Jonathan Odell

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Discuss |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Healing

A Novel

by Jonathan Odell

The Healing by Jonathan Odell
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2012, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2012, 352 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. How does Polly Shine's approach to medical treatment differ from that of the white doctors who previously treated the Satterfield slaves? What does she mean when she says, "The magic weren't in the food. It was in the seeing"? Does the way a doctor sees his or her patients determine the prescribed treatment? In your experience, how important is the personal connection between doctor and patient?

  2. Many popular works that address interracial relationships rely on a formula of a benevolent white savior empowering downtrodden blacks. Can you think of any books or films that employ this trope? What would Polly Shine say about this? How would she react to history books that claim that African Americans were "given" their freedom, or "given" the right to vote?

  3. The "magic negro," who, by use of special insight or powers helps the white protagonist, is a supporting archetype in fiction. Can you think of any examples of this stock character in other works? Does Polly Shine perpetuate the stereotype of the magic negro, or dispel it?

  4. Of what significance are role models in The Healing? How important is it for children to see a reflection of themselves in the powerful and successful people around them?

  5. In his research for The Healing, Jonathan Odell consulted an oral history project conducted by the WPA in the 1930s in which thousands of surviving former slaves were interviewed. There were some who said that given the poverty, discrimination, and random brutality they had experienced in the twentieth century, they wished they were still slaves under their old masters. Indeed, Master Satterfield in The Healing is not stereotypically cruel. Are there any instances when he seems sympathetic to his slaves? Does servitude under a kind tyrant make such a system less objectionable or more?

  6. Gran Gran tells Violet, "After Freedom, everybody all of a sudden had to decide where he or she belonged. Nobody to tell them no more. Wasn't easy for some of us... Some of us picked wrong, I reckon." What does she mean? How do the other Satterfield slaves satisfy their need for belonging after freedom? What choice does Silas make? Sylvie? Chester?

  7. When Rubina turns to Polly for an abortion, the question arises of who has authority over Rubina's body - the slave master, God, the people, or Rubina herself. Do you think Polly makes the right decision? After 150 years, how does this issue still surface in American life?

  8. In the 1950s the medical establishment began a coordinated campaign to discredit midwives, who were still the major health-care providers to rural black women in the South. Yet years after the medical establishment won the battle, statistics showed that in many instances the live birth rate was higher among the black midwives than under the white, professionally trained doctors who replaced them. Why do you think this was so?

  9. Polly talks about a "two-headed snake of Freedom" that will bite not only the Master, but the slave as well. What does she mean? And do the events of the novel play out this way?

  10. Why doesn't Polly take Granada with her? Do you agree with her decision?

  11. What role does storytelling play in The Healing? How does it influence individuals, communities, and nations? How does the concept of "story" apply to contemporary methods of healing?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Anchor Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    All Tomorrow's Parties
    by Rob Spillman
    In this absorbing memoir, co-founder of Tin House magazine, Rob Spillman, recalls his artistic ...
  • Book Jacket: Strangers in Their Own Land
    Strangers in Their Own Land
    by Arlie Russell Hochschild
    Arlie Russell Hochschild's dive into the heart of Tea Party America is as good a glimpse of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dry
    The Dry
    by Jane Harper
    After receiving a letter from his childhood friend's father, Aaron Falk, a Melbourne police officer ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Sellout
by Paul Beatty

The first book by an American author to win the prestigious Man Booker Prize.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Home Sweet Home
    by April Smith

    From the widely praised author of the FBI Special Agent Ana Grey series, a stunning novel set in the McCarthy era.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Fifth Petal
    by Brunonia Barry

    Beloved author Brunonia Barry returns to the world of The Lace Reader with this spellbinding new thriller.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Read the best books first...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

K Your F C

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.