The Healing

Jonathan Odell. Doubleday/Talese, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-0-385-53467-3
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 clichéd plot structure, this might have been a small Southern masterpiece. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 10/03/2011
Release date: 02/21/2012
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 340 pages - 978-0-307-74456-2
Open Ebook - 225 pages - 978-0-385-53468-0
Hardcover - 557 pages - 978-1-4104-4783-8
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-307-98938-3
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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