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The healing : a novel
Jonathan Odell
Adult Fiction ODELL

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Bringing exciting verisimilitude to an overworked genre, this Southern saga from Odell (The View from Delphi) is rich in character and incident, but suffers from an awkward generation-bridging flashback structure. In the 1930s, elderly former slave Granada-a longtime midwife and healer-lives in the old kitchen of the once-imposing Satterfield Plantation and takes in Violet, a terrified seven-year-old. To soothe the girl's nerves and to explain the legion of mysterious clay masks that fill the dilapidated mansion, Granada tells stories about her past, launching a series of vividly imagined, but momentum-destroying, scenes of pre-Civil War plantation life. As a young girl, Granada first served Amanda Satterfield (the opium-addled plantation mistress) as a house servant, plaything, and instrument to embarrass her husband. After the arrival of Polly Shine-a healer purchased to treat the slaves-Granada is banished from the big house and sent as a reluctant apprentice to Polly's four-room hospital. The relationship between the two women evolves in predictable but engaging fashion. Despite the novel's nuanced characters, Odell insists on uniting the two time lines with a hokey stab at significance toward the end. Had Odell allowed his vibrant characters to guide the narrative, rather than relying on a cliched plot structure, this might have been a small Southern masterpiece. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

The white, male, Mississippi-born author (The View from Delphi) of this engrossing novel about an African American female healer growing up as a slave on a Mississippi plantation makes up in soulfulness for whatever he may lack in authenticity. Gran Gran, the healer, an old woman by 1933, isn't called on much anymore for midwifery or folk remedies when a newly motherless girl is abandoned at her door. By vividly relaying stories about people she loved as a child-especially Polly Shine, the courageous slave woman healer/midwife who taught her to use her own gift-Gran Gran brings traumatized, grieving Violet back to the land of the living. Recalling Polly Shine's blend of African traditions and Old Testament beliefs heals her own ailing soul as well. VERDICT Bound to be compared to Kathryn Stockett's best-selling The Help, this historical novel relegates its few white characters to distinctly minor status and probes complex issues of freedom and slavery, such as the dangers of an owner's favor, making it more like Dolen Perkins-Valdez's acclaimed Wench. [See Prepub Alert, 8/15/11.]-Laurie A. Cavanaugh, Wareham Free Lib., MA (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Amanda Satterfield
Female
Married
Addicted to opium; grieving over the death of her daughter she took a newborn slave child and claimed her as her own.

Granada
Female
African American
Former slave; taken in as an infant by Amanda after the death of her own daughter; sent away from the plantation after the arrival of Polly; became an apprentice to Polly at her four-room hospital.
Midwife

Polly Shine
Female
African American
Purchased by Amanda's husband to treat the slaves on his plantation.
Healer



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