Heather's Reviews > The Healing

The Healing by Jonathan Odell
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May 30, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2012-books
Read from May 12 to 18, 2012

My review from the Burlington Times-News, Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gran Gran Satterfield is in her nineties, living alone in the kitchen house of the Mississippi plantation where she was born and raised. Her days as a healer and midwife have come to an end as the tide of public opinion has turned against the old ways of healing, in favor of licensed doctors and sterile hospitals.
When a young woman comes to Gran Gran for help “unfixing” a pregnancy, Gran Gran assists her. Months later, the woman is dead and her seven-year-old daughter, Violet, has been abandoned on Gran Gran’s doorstep
Violet is deeply traumatized, and in an effort to reach out to her, Gran Gran talks. She begins with the loss of her own mother, seeking common ground with the sad and frightened child. As Gran Gran pulls at the gossamer threads of memory to weave a tale, her story is revealed.
Gran Gran lost her mother when she was just a few days old. When plantation mistress Amanda Satterfield’s young daughter died of cholera, she took a newborn slave girl from her mother and brought her into the big house to rear.
Amanda named the baby Granada, dressed her in her dead daughter’s clothes and treated her almost like a member of the family. Granada’s birth mother, Ella was sent to the Satterfield’s furthest-flung fields to keep her away from her daughter. As Granada grew, she became a source of embarrassment for Master Satterfield, and an object of amusement for their friends and neighbors.
When Granada was twelve, Master Satterfield bought a new slave, named Polly Shine, from a trader in North Carolina. Polly was reputed to be a powerful healer, and Satterfield was desperate to save his field hand population, which was being decimated by a mysterious illness called “black tongue.”
Polly was the real deal, and slaves who appeared to be little more than breathing corpses when she arrived, walked out of her hospital whole and healthy within a few weeks.
As Polly’s reputation grew, so did her power on the plantation. When Polly told the master that she needed Granada to be her apprentice, he willingly complied. Over his wife’s protests, Satterfield banned Granada from the house and moved her into Polly’s cabin.
As Polly trained Granada, she pushed the girl to “remember who she is.” Convinced that she belonged by Mistress Amanda’s side, Granada denied any connection to the field slaves. But as unrest on the plantation grew, Granada was pulled between two worlds. Ultimately, her choices would bring both crashing down.
Author Jonathan Odell has crafted a gripping, beautiful and moving tale of the importance of memory and the healing power of stories. His female characters are strong, intelligent and powerful women, so amazingly wrought that I kept forgetting that the author is male.
At its heart, The Healing is a treatise on the nature of freedom and the importance of knowing who we are and how we fit into the world. Add it to your summer reading list – you’ll be glad that you did!
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