The Healing by Jonathan Odell
Publication date: February 21, 2012
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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.
There are numerous books about slaves and the Deep South but few leave an indelible impression on this reader. The Healing by Jonathan Odell is one such book. Granada is born into slavery but has spent most of her young life at the side of the plantation mistress, much like a pet. Unfortunately Granada views her life through rose-tinted glasses and presumes that she is much better than other slaves simply because of her so-called status with the mistress. When Master Satterfield faces a plague that is devastating his slave population he brings in an older woman that has a well-known reputation as a healer, Polly Shine.
In many aspects, Polly has the same amount of leeway to practice her healing arts and live her life as Granada had during her younger years. Polly’s request that Granada join her in practicing healing is met with plenty of discomfort and tension, especially on the part of Granada. Although a slave, Polly has many ideas on what slavery and freedom entail and these ideas cause a split amongst many of the slaves into those that accept and understand her feelings and those that feel she is a troublemaker. Ultimately Polly ends up teaching Granada much of the healing arts, as well as providing hope to some of the slaves on the Satterfield plantation.
Fast forward seventy-five years and Granada still lives on the plantation where she was born. The area has devolved into housing for many of the blacks descended from the slaves. Granada still practices the healing arts but there aren’t many who approach her for assistance, until a young girl, Violet, is left in her care. Violet is dealing with abandonment issues relating to her mother’s death and being left in Gran-Gran’s custody. As she slowly heals, Violet discovers the history of the plantation and gorges herself on the Gran-Gran’s memories of the people and events from the past. The Healing is just as much a story of the healing practices of Granada and Polly Shine as it is about the healing that Violet brings to Gran-Gran years after slavery has ended.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”