Thursday, March 26, 2015

Doors Have Stories To Tell-Book review "the healing"

A pineapple on a southern door is a sign of hospitality.  
But here in the Southwest they hang dried chile peppers outside their front door. It is said to bring the home good luck.    

This stringing process is called a "ristra". In the early days of chile pepper cultivation, farmers would takes partially dehydrated red chile peppers from their fields and string them into ristras and hang them outside their homes to finish drying. 

A walk through the neighborhood showed me a lot of home owners are hoping for some good luck. 
But did you ever stop and think about the stories doors have to tell?









Step through this doorway and listen to the stories of Polly Shine, Granada (Gran Gran) and Violet in
"the healing", a historical novel by Jonathan Odell. It is a mesmerizing and haunting tale that tells the connective power of a story to heal body, mind and community. The story is set in the 1860's on a Mississippi plantation and shifts back and forth to the 193o's. It digs deep into the
complex issues of freedom and slavery. 

Every once in a while I get so lost in a book that I forget where I am ... this is one of those books. It's the story of Granada - the child of a field slave "adopted" by the deranged plantation mistress, and who is then sent to work for Polly Shine, the strange new healer that the master bought. We see the plantation through the eyes of 12 year-old Granada as she grows from house slave to healer. We feel the yearnings for freedom among the characters. I loved how the author brought the plantation to life, making it seem so real that I could almost smell Sylvie's biscuits.

I am always drawn to stories that have a strong, smart, independent woman as a central character. "the healing" has a universal theme about how each generation touches future generations, and how important it is to learn that history and pass it along. Odell has a lovely way with words. His writing seemed flawless with beautiful, evocative language. 
And the shift from the more contemporary narrative (1933) to the historical narrative (1860) was smooth and easy with accurate events in each time period adding to the story as a whole.

Beyond the historical perspective, what I enjoyed about the book was the major theme of knowing ourselves, who we are and where we come from as we are all part of the river of life and all our stories are so important. Here women are the primary storytellers.

"the healing" has been compared to the book "The Help". While both books are set in Mississippi and deal with racial issues each book brings to the table its own special gifts.
One of the most fascinating parts to "the healing" is the discovery that the author is a white male and lives in Minneapolis! He does an amazing job of authenticity with a female black voice. I found it touching the way Odell developed the relationship between Polly and Granada, and then in later years between Gran Gran and Violet. Their relationships become strong bonds
as advice is dispensed and life lessons shared. 

My recommendation is move this book to the top of your reading list. 

I choose the following words by Robert Frost to honor his birthday which is today and because Granada, a.k.a. Gran Gran, a character in the book might have uttered these same ones.  
And were an epitaph to be my story I'd have a short one ready for my own. I would have written of me on my stone: I had a lover's quarrel with the world.

1 comment:

  1. Since "The Help" ranks as one of my all-time favorite books/movies, I will definitely need to read "The Healing." Thanks for the recommendation.

    The doors are so visually interesting, much more so than here in Minnesota. I expect climate has much to do with the option of varied doors that show personality and character.

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