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.