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The Healing

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The pre-Civil War South comes brilliantly to life in this masterfully written novel about a mysterious and charismatic healer readers won’t soon forget
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. 
Rich in mood and atmosphere, The Healing is the kind of novel readers can’t put down—and can’t wait to recommend once they’ve finished.

This download includes a 30-minute bonus feature.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published February 21, 2012

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About the author

Jonathan Odell

7 books191 followers
Born in Mississippi, I grew up in the Jim Crow South and became involved in the civil rights movement in college. I hold a master’s degree in counseling psychology and have been active in human resource development for over 30 years, including holding the position of Vice President of Human Resources for a Minneapolis based corporation and later founding my own consulting companies.

I am the author of the acclaimed novel The View from Delphi, which deals with the struggle for equality in pre-civil rights Mississippi, my home state. My new novel, The Healing, explores the subversive nature story plays in the healing of an oppressed people and will be published by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday early 2012. In 2015 Maiden Lane released Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League, a reimagining of my first novel

My short stories and essays have appeared in Stories from the Blue Moon Café (Macadam/Cage 2004), Men Like That (University of Chicago Press, 2001), Letters of the Twentieth Century (Dial Press, 1999), Breaking Silence (Xanthus Press, 1996), Speakeasy Literary Magazine, and the Savannah Literary Journal.

I am also putting the finishing touches on a volume of personal essays tentatively titled: Growing Up a Gay Fundamentalist Southern Baptist in Mississippi or God What Were You Thinking?

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,111 reviews
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,946 followers
December 23, 2011
I approached this novel warily because it had been compared to a wildly popular piece of Southern fiction of which I was not fond. I'm happy to report that I found the comparison entirely inapt. Odell's work offers greater subtlety of message and a richer, more authentic representation of people, period, and place.

The healing for which the book is named refers not only to healing of the body, but also to the power of connecting through stories to heal the parts of us that can't be touched in any other way. Granada shares her life story with silent little Violet, and the telling works its magic on the psyches of both speaker and listener. Eventually Violet must come out of her silence in her eagerness to tell the parts of the story unknown to Granada.

Granada's story centers on her relationship with Polly Shine, a black folk healer and midwife from whom Granada learned the healing and intuitive arts on a Mississippi plantation in the years just before the Civil War. Polly plucked Granada from her elevated position as a house slave, recognizing that Granada had healing gifts as yet undeveloped.

Polly Shine is the sparkle in this story. Spunky and outspoken, she embodies the hope of Freedom for her people, and sows that seed of possibility in their minds until it becomes a reality. Feared by some as a conjure woman, revered by others as a miracle worker, Polly lives by her own lights and mocks her white owners.

This is a story full of heart and a little humor, carefully researched by the author, himself a white child of the South. I would pick up the book thinking I was only going to read a chapter, and before I knew it I'd read 40 or 50 pages. It's a captivating picture of plantation life and healing lore as seen through the eyes of the slaves.

My only reason for not giving this lovely book five stars is that I felt abandoned near the close of the book. It jumps forward in time, which was disappointing after I'd developed a strong attachment to Polly Shine and Granada. It felt like a rush to the finish after a careful buildup. I do love the way it ends, though, with the message of passing forward to the young ones the responsibility for remembering and respecting what their forebears endured and accomplished.

Profile Image for Gayle.
124 reviews14 followers
February 24, 2012
While I admire Pat Conroy, I was disheartened by his comparing this book to The Help.
I had read enough leading up to the release of the book to know that Jon O'Dell had done massive research so I expected it to outshine The Help. The Help is entertaining, but The Healing is so much more.

The writing is flawless; the story is true to its time in history. This is literature at its finest and it's going
to affect many people. By the time I finished, I was weeping ... and for many reasons:
For the sadness of the slavery issue, for the joy of finding deep connections with older branches in our family trees, and with thanksgiving for having the opportunity to have read this book.

Granada is a newborn, the child of slaves. She is taken from her mother's arms and given to the mistress of the plantation who has lost her daughter and demands this child to take the daughter's place. She dresses Grenada in the clothing of the daughter and parades her in front of company, much as she does the pet monkey who sits on her shoulder.

When Granada is almost twelve, the plantation owner buys Polly Shine (part black, part Indian) who is a healer and midwife. Polly saves the slaves who are suffering from black tongue and she becomes revered on the plantation. Along with her healing, she begins to plant thoughts of freedom. Polly recognizes that Grenada has "the gift of sight" and takes Grenada as her apprentice. The trouble Grenada has in letting go of what the white man can do for her or give her, and learning to look inside herself for freedom, lands her in trouble more than once.

The threads that tie all women together is a strong theme and one that I found empowering. It seems so apropos as today women once again struggle to have control over their own bodies.

It is full of sentences that I will use as good quotes from time to time.

There was not a wasted paragraph nor a single page where my interest lagged. Please don't miss this book.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,977 reviews1,989 followers
September 19, 2017
Rating: 2* of five

The Publisher Says: "Compelling, tragic, comic, tender and mystical... Combines the historical significance of Kathryn Stockett's The Help with the wisdom of Toni Morrison's Beloved." —Minneapolis Star Tribune

Rich in mood and atmosphere, The Healing is a warmhearted novel about the unbreakable bonds between three generations of female healers and their power to restore the body, the spirit, and the soul.

In Antebellum Mississippi, Granada Satterfield has the mixed fortune to be born on the same day that her plantation mistress's daughter, Becky, dies of cholera. Believing that the newborn possesses some of her daughter's spirit, the Mistress Amanda adopts Granada, dolling her up in Becky's dresses and giving her a special place in the family despite her husband's protests. But when The Master brings a woman named Polly Shine to help quell the debilitating plague that is sweeping through the slave quarters, Granada's life changes. For Polly sees something in the young girl, a spark of "The Healing," and a domestic battle of wills begins, one that will bring the two closer but that will ultimately lead to a great tragedy. And seventy-five years later, Granada, still living on the abandoned plantation long after slavery ended, must revive the buried memories before history repeats itself.

Inspirational and suspenseful, The Healing is the kind of historical fiction readers can’t put down—and can’t wait to recommend once they’ve finished.

"A remarkable rite-of-passage novel with an unforgettable character. . . .The Healing transcends any clichés of the genre with its captivating, at times almost lyrical, prose; its firm grasp of history; vivid scenes; and vital, fully realized people, particularly the slaves with their many shades of color and modes of survival." —The Associated Press

My Review: I would ordinarily have consigned this to The Mouldering Mound of ~Meh~ had I not been so worked up over its sheer gracelessness, its plodding flatfooted ill-thought-out platitudinousness, and its breathlessly overwrought silliness.

”I told her I ain't nobody's pet!” Granada snapped, stomping her foot.

He looked back at Granada. “I'm sorry for it, Granada, but you best get on back to that sick house. Master ain't fooling around.”

Granada couldn't believe it. Chester was scared of Polly, too!

On her dawdling return to the hospital, she thought about what Chester had told Sylvie, the part about the master throwing Polly in a ditch. Granada sure liked the sound of that. Aunt Sylvie always said that without somebody to grieve you into heaven, you might not be able to find your way,

“Humph!” Granada thought. “That woman don't belong in heaven! If God is great, He's going to bar the door!” And if there was anything she could do to keep her out, she would gladly do it twice.

That was it!
(p114, US hardcover edition)

Nauseous stuff. Granada...now did you get that? The character's name is Granada! We're on p114 and we must know her name's Granada six times in under a hundred words! Except the one time that she and her might give a slower reader a pause!...is presented as speaking and thinking in a bastard half-dialect speech pattern that drive me wild. Go big or go home, Odell. Use dialect a la Hurston or make it standard English.

Appropriate to the story and the time, uses of “He” and “His” for references to the christian deity got on my nerves almost immediately, and three hundred pages later had worked me into a frothing frenzy of loathing. This adolescent exceptionalism on behalf of an allegedly immortal and omnipotent being is culturally insensitive and intellectually indefensible.

But wait! There's more!

Gran Gran, as she (remember now!) comes to be called, takes lessons in healering from the hated Polly who is of course the beloved Polly and she (remember now!) becomes a healer known in three counties and even, at the end of her long life, takes on another soul to bring up in the ways of healering, called Violet, who has a Shocking Connection to Gran Gran!

Oh good gawd, I can't go on. If three hundred and thirty pages of exclams and pseudodialect do not cause you to long for a swift and merciful death, go on and read it. Maybe, if you liked The Help, this will give you some pleasure, being The Help set in slave times.

For my part, I will daub myself liberally with baboon dung before I will pick up another highly praised Southern-set novel.
Profile Image for Londa.
169 reviews2 followers
July 17, 2016
This book is truly exceptional. It delves deeply into the healing power of women and their gift of creation and life. The women in this novel were so well written that I had a hard time believing it was written by a man! Another of my favorites The Book of Night Women shares that compliment.

So glad that I got to meet Gran Gran, Polly, Violet and all of the other women Odell brought to life. I highly recommend it to anyone. Especially those who may want to read a gentler more optimistic story from this period in history. Many books written about this time are unavoidably dark and depressing. This is not to say that this a Pollyanna fairy tale, but there is a hopeful beautiful spirit about it that I greatly enjoyed.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,782 reviews14.2k followers
January 20, 2012
What an amazing and magical read. I absolutely loved it and so did not want it to end. It is the eve of the Civil War, on a large plantation in Mississippi and the master pays a unprecedented sum of money for a woman slave said to be a healer. Things are not going well on the plantation, slaves are dying and the mistress is going insane after the death of her daughter. Enters Polly Shine, a character I will never forget. I read an interview by this author and he includes much in his afterword, on how he felt after being raised in white man's Mississippi he felt he was missing a great part of his history, he actually talked to former midwives and other blacks raised in that era for the information in his novel. Comparing it to The Help is doing this book a disservice, because though I did like that book, this book immerses the reader in the plantation system, it is told from the viewpoint of Polly Shine and Granada, a young house raised slave that she takes to train, because Polly Shine feels that she has the same gift as herself. He explains exactly what freedom meant to the slaves and how some were not able to move on. It is a fascinating, historical read and I highly recommend it. ARC provided by Net Galley.
Profile Image for Nea.
162 reviews160 followers
April 2, 2016
I can't possibly write a review that measures up to how much I love this book. The Healing is not just another tale on the horrors of slavery. It captures not just the mind, but the heart and soul of enslaved people. Honestly, I was shocked to learn that this amazing work of African American historical fiction was written by a white male from Mississippi. In fact, I may not have read the book if I'd known that upfront. But Odell handled the subject with more insight and sensitivity than I could've imagined. He veered away from the typical great white savior (i.e. Atticus Finch) taking on the establishment to save helpless darkies. He let the strength, power, and fortitude of enslaved Africans, particularly women, take center stage.

Odell listened to the stories of slaves' descendants, read countless slave narratives, researched extensively, and clearly walked away with a rich understanding of Mississippi plantation life. That comes across so well in this book. The characters are well developed and multi-dimensional. The pace is perfect. The role of women is honest and powerful, never just a backdrop to male characters. The author's reach is deep, peeling back layers generally unexplored. Most importantly, the book is not depressing as one might expect for the subject matter. It is inspiring and enlightening.

The Healing is a reminder that enslaved people were not slaves. They were people, forced into slavery. It's a reminder that the damage done was not just to the body, but to the minds and souls led so far astray. The Healing is a reminder of how slavery not only damaged enslaved individuals, but created generations of "soul sick" people who couldn't even see their own brokenness. However, this book is also a reminder that healing is possible, particularly when we give voice to our ancestors and choose to remember who we truly are.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,780 reviews1,458 followers
August 7, 2014
I like this book, but it didn't blow me over. There is nothing specific I can complain about.

At the end of the audiobook the author includes an interview he had with a very old midwife, as part of his research for the novel. She was in her 80s or 90s. She answers questions such as exactly how she delivered the babies, how many deliveries she had preformed and if any mother had gotten mad at her. Yup, one bit her. This section I adored. What a woman! Midwifery in the South during the 1860s is a central theme, along with of course race. The author also discusses how he wanted the content of his book to be different from To Kill a Mockingbird, and that too was extremely interesting.

But you don't read a book for the author's Afterword, do you?! Yet, for me, understanding what Odell wanted to achieve was important.

Another central theme is freedom. This theme was excellently done. Isn't racial injustice really just plain having or not having freedom. Freedom to say yes or no. Freedom to choose how to live your life. Freedom to make your own mistakes.... This lack of freedom lies at the core of racial inequality and it molded every aspect of the whites' and the blacks' actions and views of each other.

There are beautiful lines of wisdom found in this book.

Much of this book is told from the perspective of two children, one in the 1860s and the other in the 1900s. The reader sees out through the eyes of two children. This was well done, but I personally prefer books told from the adult perspective. While the adult perspective is here too, the emphasis lies on a child's point of view, level of understanding and hopes and wishes. You see the world as they see it. Of course the children interconnect at the end. That is a mystery that is alluded to from the very start of the book and keeps the reader wondering how the two stories connect.

The narration by Adenrele Ojo was well done. Her ability to intone slaves and plantation owners, children and the elderly really wasn't an easy task, and she did this marvelously. You don't feel the story is being told by an outsider, but rather each person is telling their own tale. And I liked that the author narrated the Afterword.

Remember a three star book is one I like and one I can recommend others to read. Still, I cannot get super excited about the book.

Profile Image for Jaime Boler.
196 reviews12 followers
October 27, 2011
Author Jonathan Odell writes that American slaves and their descendants "have strived and survived as a proud of community and, in spite of every adversity imaginable, infused the larger American culture with a richness like none other." Their story is our story, he maintains. What a story he tells in his second novel The Healing, to be released in February 2012. Historically accurate details and characters that seem to come to life on the page populate the book. The African-American slaves in Odell's world are players, not pawns; they are active, not passive, participants in the oppressive and repressive institution that was slavery. The slaves tried to forge identities for themselves and their families while slave owners did their best to suppress their attempts. Nothing, however, could stop Odell's Polly Shine.

Odell previously wrote The View from Delphi. He currently lives in Minnesota but was born in Laurel, Mississippi, the hometown of this reviewer. The Healing is very personal to him as this novel works to heal the wounds slavery, segregation, and racism have left behind. In the author's note to the reader, he recounts several instances of his early life in which he saw racism firsthand. His note is very revealing and allows readers a chance to see into his mind and his heart. In fact, I urge readers to read it first, as it will give you great insight into the author and his mindset.

Set on a cotton plantation in the Mississippi Delta, The Healing begins when the twelve-year-old daughter of Benjamin and Amanda Satterfield dies of cholera. Mistress Amanda is distraught, even enraged and unstable, and takes a baby from one of the Satterfield slaves to raise as her own. The mistress renames the baby Granada and exiles her true parents to the swamps. Mistress Amanda dresses Granada in the clothes of her dead daughter and parades her before friends and neighbors. Granada loves the clothes, for the clothes made the mistress notice her: "The clothes made her more than beautiful. They made her visible." The sight of Granada, an African-American slave in the clothes of a white girl, appalls the whites. The mistress also has a pet monkey named Daniel Webster who perches on her shoulder. Here, Odell is rather heavy-handed. The reader is meant to compare Granada to the monkey; they are the same in the eyes of slaveholding whites. Perhaps Odell does not think readers would fully grasp the meaning without the presence of the monkey. Granada is just a slave, no matter how many fancy clothes she wears; she will never be the daughter of the mistress. She merely mimics the world of the whites, and her emulations are met with disdain. As Granada tries to curtsy "like she had seen white women do," the monkey pulls her hair, making her tilt to the side. She looks to see the reaction: "The women had dropped their eyes to the floor, looking red-faced, as if they had been slapped in church…." A man watching her "hid his mouth behind his hand and coughed loudly." The man's eyes, Granada, saw, "danced with a wicked merriment." Her mimicry only makes Granada ridiculous, since "tying a scrap of red on a straw broom don't make it no Christmas tree." This works even without Daniel Webster, although the monkey serves a purpose later in the novel.

Everything changes on the plantation with the arrival of Polly Shine, who had "bird feathers stuck out of her braids this way and that, and around her neck she wore a ponderous necklace made of gleaming white shells." Polly was "as skinny as a river bird, and draped over her shoulders was a mangy wrap made from the fur of some animal Granada imagined being too ugly to ever have lived." Odell is at his very best when he writes her scenes. Satterfield purchases Polly from North Carolina for the grand sum of five thousand dollars. The other slaves speculate as to her purpose there: "She was too unsightly to be thought of as frolic in bed for the master. She was too far past her childbearing years to multiply the stock. Though she seemed nimble enough, it was hard to imagine her being brought all the way from North Carolina for field work." The reason for her presence is soon revealed: Polly is a healer, and the master hopes she can cure his slaves of the "blacktongue," a disfiguring and painful disease. The master gives Polly lots of leeway. Polly even chooses Granada to be her apprentice, causing a battle of wills between the mistress and the slave. Polly, however, emerges as the victor, leaving Granada furious and saddened. Polly does things her own way. Although she is a slave, she is really her own boss. I loved her and consider her Odell's richest, most well-developed character. She stirs things up on the plantation so much so that nothing would be the same after her arrival for Granada, the Satterfields, or her fellow slaves. For example, Polly tells Granada Master Satterfield "can't give you your Freedom. The Yankees when they come can't. I can't. If you think any somebody can, then you always going to be their slave."

Readers will appreciate the meticulous research Odell conducted for The Healing. He combed through archives and listened to the Works Project Administration's interviews with former slaves recorded in the 1930s. Odell also talked to numerous descendants of former slaves. His hard work paid off as historical accuracies abound in his novel. Odell paints a picture of a world in which house slaves believe they are better than field hands. That is true. Slaves were hierarchical. In the novel, the master has an affair with a slave named Rubina, a typical practice. The mistress knew of her husband's affair and hated him (and Rubina) for it. This, too, is historically accurate. In fact, many mistresses treated any children from such dalliances cruelly. In The Healing, Satterfield names his slaves and this sometimes did occur. Not all masters named their slaves, however. Ella, Granada's natural mother, originally gave her daughter an African name, Yewande. In the slave south, slaves could not come and go as they pleased. Written permission from the master was required. Odell shows readers the same was true for Polly Shine. Slaves also resisted slavery through rebellion. Their resistance might be active (revolt) or passive (everyday rebellion). Near the end of Odell's novel, we see Satterfield's slaves engaging in rebellious acts against the master. Therefore Odell gives us a story that very well might have happened, even if it is fiction. Nothing he writes is inaccurate or not plausible.

The world of Odell's imagining is one in which readers will want to immerse themselves. Filled with both historical accuracy and vivid, rich, detailed characters, The Healing proves Odell is an up-and-coming author. The Healing recalls earlier greats such as Toni Morrison's Beloved and Alice Walker's The Color Purple. I believe Odell will receive great acclaim. With The Healing, he will certainly put Laurel, Mississippi, on the literary map. Oxford who?

The version I read was an Advance Reading Copy. Thank you, Todd Doughty.
Profile Image for Alena.
891 reviews232 followers
April 27, 2012
I should have loved this novel. It has most of the ingredients I seek.
1) Historical Fiction. The story takes place just before and after the Civil War so we’re treated to a glimpse of the unrest prior to Emancipation and to the hardship following the war.
2) Young girl’s perspective. We meet Granada when she is just 11. Spoiled (for a slave that is) and petulant, we watch her mature and gain a true understanding of her roots and her identity.
3) Strong female characters. This book is populated with wise black women, most notably Polly Shine, and I love that. In the spirit of Toni Morrison, these women can “see through” others and death does not stop communication between generations.
4) Beautiful, evocative language. Odell has a lovely way with words.
"Granada felt many things she had no words to shape, so she remained quiet and let the secret part of her flicker as long as possible until at last it faded to its hiding place."

But something about this book did not click for me. Part of the issue was that I never came to love Granada. I could not figure out if the story belonged to her or to Polly. I never came to know either deeply enough.
I did love reading Odell’s language, especially in terms of Granada’s struggle to listen, to seen, to understand.
"Now that her mother was no longer, Granada was flooded with needs, never before spoken. She wanted her mother to explain to her this crumbling wall between dreaming and waking...How tenderness could hurt and how delight could be so terrifying."

But even his lyrical language wasn’t enough to fully engage me. I never wanted to give up on the book, but I definitely wanted to love it more.
Profile Image for Tara.
Author 23 books560 followers
April 1, 2013
A great deal of research went into this book, and it shows, without being glaringly educational. An intense look at plantation life from the pov of the "swamp slave," and a respectful exploration of the role midwives played amongst the slave population before the 1950s. A very female-centered book, this story highlights the importance of oral history and has one of the best definitions of freedom I've ever heard:

"All Freedom is two words: 'Yes' and 'No.'"

So simple, but so true, this book delves into some dark places and the spiritual realm of those who are gifted with the "sight." Will appeal to anyone who loves historical fiction and fiction that depicts well-rounded minorities. Odell is an author I will read again.
Profile Image for Kirk Smith.
234 reviews79 followers
August 20, 2017
Mississippi authors have an ability to depict slavery in a way that get's to the heart of the matter without putting it under the microscope or piling on massive amounts of drama. Perhaps because they have lived with the descendants of slavery, its not us-or-them, it's family.. it's "we". Sometimes the savage abuses are more powerful when they subtly peak through the pastoral veil that all is well. At any rate, kudos to another great Mississippi author for delivering a completely magical story of the south and its people.
Profile Image for Sara.
330 reviews
March 16, 2012
I found this book at Costco while browsing the book table (I go around 3 times), and picked it up. Lalita Tademy, author of Cane River, gave The Healing an excellent review and I really liked the cover. I found it interesting that a gay, white man wanted to attempt to write about a slave women and their relationships. He pulled it off. Being originally from Mississippi, Odell felt that dealing with this subject healed wounds for himself. The story centers around Granada who is chosen by the slave midwife, Polly Shine, to be her apprentice. Polly manages to extract her own and Granada's freedom and then Granada won't leave the plantation! Polly Shine was a wonderful character and deserved way better than Granada. I was frustrated with Granada through the whole book, and was still mad at her when it was over. (Maybe that's the hallmark of great characterization: the book's over and the reader is still mad at the main character). Granada is able to finally heal herself by healing an orphan named Violet. I wholeheartedly recommend The Healing.
Profile Image for Emily.
121 reviews
April 11, 2013
I was asked to review an advanced copy of this book for my sister's bookstore. One of her employees highly recommended it and said that it was the next "The Help." I have not read "The Help," but on the surface there are some similarities. However, this book focuses on the lives of slaves in the Mississippi delta area just prior to the civil war. The overall tone is uplifting, it pays tribute to some of the shocking and horrible things that occurred during that time, but primarily focuses on hope, pride, faith, change, and healing that derived from these communities and particular people within them.

This book is well written in a literary way that is also easy to read. It has a magical realism style to it that I really liked and thought was well done. There were definitely aspects of the book that were emotional, thought-provoking, and inspirational. I think it would make a good book club book as there would be lots of topics to discuss.
Profile Image for Barb.
1,192 reviews128 followers
January 4, 2012
There's a lot to like in this novel. If you read and enjoyed March by Geraldine Brooks, The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom or The Help, by Kathryn Stockett you will probably enjoy this story as well.

Gran Gran, in her nineties in 1933, recalls the conflicts and hardships of her childhood as a slave and the life altering impact that a wise woman named Polly Shine had on her when she was chosen to learn the woman's healing ways.

I liked the characters Jonathan Odell created, the story is compelling and I kept reading to learn what happened to Granada as she grew up. There were many moving moments throughout this story but what I enjoyed most is the way Odell brings the story full circle, there is a certain satisfaction in the ending he gives these characters.

I think the author does an amazing job with the female voice, I never would have guessed the writer was a man. The shift from the more contemporary narrative (1933) and the historical narrative (1860) was smooth and easy with events in each time period adding to the story as a whole. I liked the illusions the character Polly shares with Granada as well as her advice and aphorisms.

I would have liked some expansion on Gran Gran's life after the Civil War and a few other aspects of the story. It seemed as if the author avoided showing the ugliness and brutality of slavery until about half way through the book. I think that may have been a wise choice when considering the mass marketability of this story but on the other hand it would have given the book a more realistic feel if the horrors of slavery had been woven throughout. There were also a few threads that could have been smoothed and polished a bit more but I think that most readers won't notice or care.

I really enjoyed the author's note, which gives the reader some perspective on where the author has come from. I will look for more books by Jonathan Odell and I recommend this to readers who enjoy exploring issues of racism and those who have an interest in learning about slavery.

If you haven't already read the books I mentioned earlier I also highly recommend those,The Kitchen House: A Novel is an all-time favorite of mine. And reading this has now moved up the following books in my "to be read" pile: 'Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl' by Harriet Jacobs and 'Kindred' by Octavia Butler.
Profile Image for Dosha (Bluestocking7) Beard.
412 reviews37 followers
October 5, 2016
I had a very enlightening time with this book, creating my own historical fiction/self discovery along the way. I found some parts kind of creepy, but on the whole this was not a scary book. This is a moving coming of age story centering on overcoming slavery of the mind, and of having the bravery to heal physical and psychological wounds. One of the characters, a beautiful girl named Rubina, carries the same name as my beautiful mother (also my middle name). The art of healing (in Indian culture is called Dosha) spoke directly to me since my first name is Dosha, being named after my maternal grandmother. This book related many things involving slavery; however it also spoke volumes about women carrying the magical art of healing from one generation to the next, and although no one in this book is named Dosha, nor does this book mention Ayurveda Indian healing, I still felt empowered. I loved learning about the healing art of midwifery and the magical components attached to healing. I enjoyed thoughts of blending the traditional Ayurveda and primitive midwifery for my own self discovery benefit. I'm more proud than ever to be from a line of women who have been honored with the title of midwife; my great grandmother delivered my big brother. There are many of the same plots as other books on slavery including the kind benevolent master and the faithful servant/slave. The mean overseers etc. The way of life that is and always will be because the bible tells us so. However there was something different in the female characters in this book that reached out to grab my soul in new ways. I was very impressed with the fact that a man wrote this book. He captured the feelings and thoughts of womanhood very nicely. When I read the afterward, I was completely blown away. I just had to laugh. Not wanting to give anything away, I have to say the afterward and acknowledgements were as eye opening as the main text. Enjoyed it very much.
Profile Image for CaShawn.
20 reviews33 followers
August 8, 2012
I just finished reading THE HEALING by Jonathan Odell. I highly recommend it, especially to the doulas, midwives, birth assistants, teachers & other healers. It is an AMAZING novel. Easily the best book I've read this year. book, along with Jonathan Odell's book "A View From Delphi", is everything "The Help" wishes it could be if it weren't for the tremendous and ridiculous ego of the author. I don't ride for that book at all. But "The Healing" & "A View From Delphi" get ALL THE STARS on my goodreads profile! I shed tears through this book. Every theme that tugs at my heart shone so brightly in this book. The Help shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence with The Healing, except to say how much BETTER it is.Sincere, authentic and honors and respects Southern Black Midwifery & Healing. I read The Help last sumer & left a sour taste on my whole soul. I've worked as a Black Nanny in the 21st century and disrespected that experience, let alone what Black domestics lived through in the last few centuries in America. As a Doula-in-training, The Healing made me feel like I'm right in my thoughts & beliefs.
Profile Image for Beverly.
1,640 reviews350 followers
May 29, 2012
Thoughts on the book:
• I enjoyed the book and thought it was well-researched and written
• Like all – at first I was not anxious to read because of the pre-pub about comparing it to The Help, but thanks to Phyllis reading/reviewing the book my mind was changed and I was anxious to read.
• Really liked how the author focused/informed about the slave healers and why slave masters used them and why the slaves appreciated them.
• I liked how the characters were unique and varied enough so that the reader could see there was diversity in thought on how best to survive under slavery. Though all wanted to be “free” it explored what went on behind the scenes and within the minds of individual slaves.
• The pacing worked for me – I thought the weaving of back story and moving the story along worked well.
• Liked how he used the theme of memory healing body, mind and spirit.
• Good storytelling and liked that the writing style was literary.
• The story within a story worked for me – though I was less interested/liking the story between Gran Gran and Violet.
• I thought the author worked hard to make sure that he wrote about the black characters with dignity and tried not to “stereotype” them but showed the conditions/hardships through the slaves as individuals.
• Liked how the author showed that “benign” slave masters were really no different than “cruel” slave masters as all they wanted to do was maximize their profits.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
75 reviews24 followers
February 2, 2014
I was given this book by my neighbor for my birthday soon after I moved back to Mississippi in late 2012. She said that I reminded her of the main character. I hadn't been interested in reading a fiction novel at the time...so it sat on my shelf until just last week (late January). I read the book in a matter of days and am so thankful it found its way to me. Jonathan Odell has written, not only a seamless narrative, he has given life to unspoken histories... His book gives insight into the oppressive dynamics between the oppressor and the oppressed...while tapping into the spirited nature of the community healer and midwife. Considering that midwifery is still very much a gray area in the the state of MS, this book highlights how it happened while offering some thoughts on why we need to bring it back. Soulful and illuminating, I hope this books makes it into the hands of everyone in the state of Mississippi. These are the kinds of stories that move us to the next level understanding.
Profile Image for Heather Fineisen.
1,184 reviews113 followers
August 10, 2012
This is a beautifully imagined take on plantation life and the emotional, spiritual and physical healing that is needed through such strife. It took me a while to really think about the book after finishing. On the surface, the book is a well written story. But after considering the characters, and their actions, with the whole premise of "healing" as a character, it became much more. I often think not alot has changed in our treatment of others and we all need a healing of some sort. Odell's sincere and heartfelt acknowledgements is one of the best I've read, rather than the usual "I'd like to thank the academy list". Odell's personal story enhanced my own reading. I look forward to his next work.
Profile Image for Amanda.
422 reviews14 followers
June 30, 2018
5+ stars! What a powerful story. And, Polly Shine is one of the best characters I have ever read. The author's note at the end is also a wonderful addition.
Profile Image for Amy.
979 reviews265 followers
July 25, 2020
This is one of those books that has just been on my TBR for forever, and none of the massive cleanouts, ever got it to disappear. Something about it was compelling.

The story is set on a plantation before the civil war (antebellum - a term I had honestly never heard before), where slaves are mistreated and "do not know or remember themselves." Through the story, we meet a lot of different kind of folks, struggling to figure out who they are, could be, and how they fit into a line and generation of a people, and who they might become, if only it were possible. In comes Polly Shine, slave and healer, who recognizes in our main character, a gift (for healing) that she doesn't even know is there. The story is set in two time frames - when Granada is young, and when she is 85-90 with a young girl who emerges who needs care. The story unravels from there. It is a story about bonds created, and bonds broken. About remembering and healing and its secrets. Its about coming into who you are and could be. Its about the difficult path to slavery and what it means to be free. 3.5 stars, and I am glad I read it.
Profile Image for Elise.
895 reviews67 followers
January 30, 2020
A wonderful story about women guiding and uplifting other women, about the power of memory and the importance of being remembered, about what freedom truly means and the responsibilities, choices, and challenges that come with it. I also enjoyed Odell’s writing, although I will admit that some of the dialogue was a bit awkward. This author’s strength is clearly in descriptive details of setting and character development. That said, I often found myself getting frustrated with protagonist, Granada, who is far too slow to receive the spiritual and practical gifts she is given by Polly Shine throughout the story. It was almost unbelievable how long it takes her to wake up. Nonetheless, The Healing is a beautiful story about strategies of survival and transcendence during the awful days of slavery. Jonathan Odell has successfully achieved what I would define as a loving tribute to and celebration of African Americans who found healing and connection to one another after being forcibly divided by the diaspora.
Profile Image for Star Ryan.
127 reviews23 followers
March 23, 2017

this is a book that you don't realize how much you like it until it has already snuck up on you and then there is no way out. It just gets better and better the deeper you are immersed. It isn't surprising the author was mistaken for African American with his prior novel, I had a really hard time believing that a white person, let alone a man could write these black women characters so exquisitely well! Its obvious O'dell has done massive amounts if research in compiling this story. So beautifully written!
Profile Image for Prettywitty77.
97 reviews43 followers
March 3, 2020
This is an okay read. It wasn’t captivating. I put this book down so many times. The closer I got to the end, the better it got. I loved the lady he interviewed at the end the book. As a native Mississippian, that interview truly feel like home. I didn’t even realize that the author is a white man. Great writing!
Profile Image for Phyllis | Mocha Drop.
358 reviews2 followers
January 11, 2012
With this being an Amazon Vine choice, I admittedly had very little background on this novel aside from a few snippets of praise from its publisher. It is seemingly marketed with references and comparisons to Katheryn Stockett’s The Help which I find unfair and inaccurate. Aside from both authors being Mississippi-born, it is my opinion that The Healing excels and celebrates where The Help failed and insulted me. In short, while I realize I am in the minority by disliking The Help, I thoroughly enjoyed The Healing and will pick up Mr. Odell’s other works (past and future).

The essence of memory serves as a balm in The Healing. The story opens with a black woman and her young daughter (Violet) being rushed by a white man to an old woman’s (Granada) backwoods home in the middle of the night for medical attention. Having seen the adults weeks earlier for a “cure” for an unwanted “problem,” the woman succumbs to her injuries leaving a traumatized Violet in the care of Granada (Gran Gran). As we soon learn, everything happens for a reason - Violet and Gran Gran have more in common than either could ever imagine. Gran Gran, who feels the “gift” of sight has abandoned her, slowly reclaims it and her strength as Violet’s gentle probing and questions awaken a lifetime of suppressed memories. Granada recounts her life on the nearby Satterfield plantation in the Civil War era South and it is in this retelling the reader meets the eccentric laudanum-dazed mistress whose madness sets the course of Granada’s life and introduces us to the unforgettable Polly Shine, the “gifted” daughter of weavers and a wise and formidable midwife/healer, who teaches Granada the invaluable lessons of a lifetime.

The storytelling and pacing is great - I was pulled into the story from the opening pages and stayed engaged until the end; I was vested to see how it was all going to play out and was not disappointed. The atmosphere/setting is vivid, the characters are rich and realistic in their actions and motivations -- simply put -- we have it all, the good, the bad, and the ugly; some are flawed, misguided, but all are wonderfully drawn. Polly Shine instantly became one of my favorite fictional characters -- I love her and wish I could have experienced more of her life’s journey. Bottom line, this book pays homage to power of the story and memory and its ability to heal a people/community and individuals; it is in the remembering of the beloved ancestors that propel and empower the living. It is one of my favorites for the year.

Reviewed by Phyllis
APOOO Literary Bookclub
December 21, 2011
Profile Image for Vivian.
Author 2 books137 followers
March 26, 2014
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.
Profile Image for Autumn.
338 reviews1 follower
April 23, 2012
Do yourself a favor and get yourself the audiobook of The Healing today, like now, when you're done reading this. One of the best stories I've heard in a long time. I'm sure the book it great, but audiobook is just so fantastic. Make sure to listen to the author's note and the midwife's interview at the end.

The first time I talked to anybody about this book I told my husband I was listening to an audiobook about plantation slaves from a woman's point of view and I was really having a hard time believing that a man wrote this book. My husband gave me "a look". I told him that the book talks about white men can't take ownership of anything because it was all put there by black women. At this point in my telling him about the book I stopped and looked up Jonathan Odell and said something to the effect of "oh my god, not only is he a man, but he's a white man." I'm still a little skeptical, but that's only because I think that spirit of Polly and Granada was written so well.

I keep seeing this book being compared to The Help and I can't comment on that because I hated The Help. I got about 70 pages into it and that was enough of the "vernacular" for me. The Healing reminded me more of Gone With the Wind. Some of the comments throughout the book made me think of Mammy and Prissy. There was one part when maid was being sassy with her "yes ma'am" but saying it just such a way that the mistress wouldn't know, but all the other slaves would recognize it. That totally reminded me of Prissy!

This will be the book I'll be telling everyone about whenever they ask for a recommendation. The Healing was absolutely amazing. Let me know if you loved it as much as I did!
Profile Image for Vannessa Anderson.
Author 0 books177 followers
April 24, 2017
The story begins and ends with Granada who was stolen from her mother arms shortly after birth by the master’s wife who was grieving the death of her daughter, and who decided that Granada would replace her dead child. Though the master’s wife didn’t love Granada, she treated her like a cherished pet and Granada, not knowing better, mistook the treatment as a mother’s love and acceptance.

Master Satterfield bought Polly Shine, a slave and a healer, to cure his slaves of a mysterious plague. While curing the slaves, Polly was plotting and planning. Polly took Granada under her wings and tried to educate her about her real standing on Satterfield’s plantation but Granada was too young to understand. What Granada didn’t know was that Polly, while trying to educate Granada, was also using her. With Granada’s unknowing help, Polly’s plan worked. When Polly offered Granada her freedom, Granada declined and Polly, with regret, left Granada behind.

The Healing is a work of Art and should be read by adults and children alike again and again! Not only does The Healing entertain, it educates! Adenrele Ojo read the book with such intent that readers will believe that they are characters in the book.
Profile Image for Aura.
774 reviews66 followers
August 18, 2012
I listened to the audio unabridged version and I cant get this book out of my mind. The epilogue includes an actual interviews with an African American midwife who was taught to "catch babies" by her mother. What a delightful end to a fantastic book.
This story about African American women, healers and midwives is written by a white man in a strong, poignant, heartfelt and truthful voice. Jonathan Odell speaks about the People, Africans slaves, whose stories were stolen by slavery. The healing comes from remembering the stories about the People and where one comes from.
Polly Shine is an unforgettable character. She is not just a healer of the body but more importantly a spiritual healer. She tells Granada "you got to know where you come from to know where you stand. When you know where you stand, you can help the People" (I paraphrase because I listened to the book). This is what this book is about.
The previous reviews cover the wonderfulness of this book. All I can add is that this is one of those books that I will be remembered for a long time because of its wisdom and humanity.
Profile Image for Reviews May Vary.
1,203 reviews96 followers
November 5, 2016
I really enjoyed this book, written as stories of an old woman's tales to a mute/ traumatized child who is in her care. The stories begin with the woman as a girl, born to slavery and dressed as a doll for the mentally unstable mistress of a large plantation. When she meets an old woman who talks of Freedom she is lost and scared but begins to learn that Freedom isn't a place but the ability to choose for yourself. The book was engaging and well written.

The author's note is worth the listen and includes clippings of recordings from a woman he interviewed as part of his research for the book.
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