Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Healing by Jonathan Odell

The Healing by Jonathan Odell

When the mistress of the Satterfield plantation loses her daughter to the cholera epidemic, she loses a piece of her mind.  She copes, by taking the daughter of one of her slaves and raising her as her own, much to her husbands chagrin.  Granada grows up straddling two worlds, companion and make-believe daughter to the mistress and house slave.

When Granada is 13, in 1860, there is a new disease spreading in the slave quarters so the master decides to buy an old, wizened slave woman for 5000 dollars, who happens to be a healer.  Polly Shine heals the people and instills a sense of community and hope.  She inevitably turns the plantation upside down and she chooses Granada as her apprentice against her will.  Granada has the gift of sight and healing she just needs to believe in herself and remember her people.  "Choose for the people, Granada and God will be on your side.  Choose for yourself and you'll be walking alone." Pg. 167.

The Healing is told from Granada's point of view 75 years later as she recites her life's story and remembers the people who were a major part of her life.  The Healing illuminates the transformative power of story.    Odell states in his author's note, "If you want to destroy a people, destroy their story.  If you want to empower a people, give them a story to share." Pg. 340.

Polly Shine talked to Granada about freedom but since she had never left the plantation, the word Freedom held little meaning.  Granada thought Freedomland was another plantation.  Polly told Granada "You got to remember Freedom before you can grab it." Pg. 219  The Healing is about remembering who you are and where you come from.  It is ultimately about hope and freedom.

Odell has created a novel that encompasses the power of healing, women and story.  He extensively researched African American midwives and listened to the oral histories of hundreds of slaves.  Odell has created a vibrant, memorable cast of characters, rich in the African American tradition.  As a white male writing from the black female point of view, he has created a believable, authentic historical novel.