The Healing

by Jonathan O’Dell


When an traumatized, orphaned girl appears on her doorstep along with her dead mother, an old woman uses stories of her own childhood to help heal her. The woman, Gran Gran, tells about growing up on a plantation as one of the house slaves. Her life and the lives of everyone there is changed when Polly Shine arrives. Polly, known to be a healer, is purchased by the plantation owner when a plague of sickness affects the slaves and conventional medicine isn’t helping. Along with her healing herbs and tinctures, Polly brings along a rich knowledge of her African heritage, recognition of the power of women, and a taste for freedom. She believes that the child Granada (Gran Gran) has “the gift” as well and does what she can to nurture it, not always successfully.


Like other reviewers, I knew nothing about this book before I read it, except for some vague comparisons to The Help. Comparisons made mainly because O’Dell, like Kathryn Stockett, is a White author writing a novel primarily in the voices of African-Americans. I didn’t read The Help, but this novel is a success. In the author’s note included, O’Dell shares all of the extensive research he did on that time in slavery and the history of healing & midwifery in this country. I think he did a great job with this one and I look forward to reading more of his work.

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