The Healing: Book Review
By Jonathan O'Dell
It is Mississippi, 1847 before the Civil War on the Satterfield plantation. Amanda Satterfield is taken by grief. Her daughter, Becky dies of cholera. Mrs. Satterfield wants one of the slave children, Granada to replace her own daughter. Granada is taken away from her mother. Her parents are taken from the big house and made to work in the fields of the plantation.
Amanda has her stay at the main house, and dresses her like a play thing to show her off. She dresses her with the clothes of her dead daughter. She changes her name to Granada, and changes her ways, and culture of a white person.
After the death of her daughter, Amanda doesn't seem right in the head. Something seems to be off. a bit.
She still has her young son, and she has taken a pet monkey into her care.
Then out of the blue, the master brings home Polly. Polly arrives with feathers in her hair, and strange necklaces around her neck. Polly is very independent, and head strong and demanding. She was bought by the master for $5,000. She is a "healer", she was sought after by the master to care for the slaves, to cure the slaves from black tongue.
All the slaves are speculating why Polly was bought. Was she bought to bed the master? No, she is too old and not his type. Was she bought to be a slave? No, she is too old, and is older than spit to be a slave hand. She is too frail to lift even a pot. Polly is the first slave that is bought. The slaves on the plantation have been born into slavery.
Polly makes many demands of Mr. Satterfield. One of the demand she wants Granada to become her apprentice. There is something the she sees in Granada. Granada is not happy with this arrangement. She wants to stay in the big house, and continue to be noticed as a white person. There is battle of wills but eventually Polly wins this battle, and Granada is forced to give in.
Polly doesn't know her place on the plantation. She thinks, and act like the the equal of the white person. She is feisty, and independent, and has confidence, and doesn't care how people will react toward her.This causes the slaves to become all riled up and take a stand.
She takes Granada under her wing. She is a wise women. She gives Granada life lessons over, and over again about freedom. Freedom is doing what you want, no matter if it is being on the plantation or going off somewhere. It is your freedom of choice. I love the practices of Polly, it was full of life lessons, and mysticm, and full of spirit.
Granada wants to go and help Polly with the birthing, and delivery of the babies. Polly thinks she is still immature, and until she has her first menstruation. Instead Granada, waits, and waits until her first menstruation. Finally the time comes.
Finally the plot thickens when Rubina, one of the slaves is about to give birth. Rubina knows what will happen to her child, as well as Polly. The baby dies,by Polly's hand. Granada tells the mistress of the house what she knows. That Polly killed the baby, but why? Is it she knows what the baby will have to deal with being a slave? she will be the master's whore? She will be sold off?
My Book Review: I loved the writing style of the author. His writing style is wonderful. He was able to get in the heads of the slaves. I am a white person, but I thought he did a good job on the way he got into the character's heads.
I loved Polly, she stood up to the white man, no matter what cost. Most books I have read is when the slave says, yes sir, and no sir. The author, in the back of the book wrote a nice addendum about the reason he wrote the story. One thing he did say, is that he did not want to write another, To Kill A Mockingbird. Where a white man saves the black man. He wanted to write a story about the black man able to save himself. Without the help of a white person.
I loved the way Polly, used her life lessons to get a message across to Granada. Granada thought like a white person. She had trouble since she grew up in the big house. What it meant. Does she belong in the big house, or the swamps. What it means to be black? or is she white? Where does she truly belong?
I did not realize there is a cultural divide in the difference of hue color. Meaning if you are blackest black, or cinnamon color. How Afro Americans treat each other with, disgust or disdain.
When the black person was given freedom, some of them still wanted to stay on the plantation as a free person. They could not in their hearts, just leave. I imagine that it must be like jail, when it is someone always telling you what to do. How do you live without it.
I liked the folklore of the Afro-American how it was weaved into the story. The life lessons, mixed in with spiritualism. The Healing process of giving birth to babies. Polly was a smart woman, and knew what she wanted out of life. She did not care what others thought of her. Sometimes her actions got her into trouble she could have been killed. She knew it, but stood up for her convictions.
The last part of the book was interesting. What happened to Polly, and Granada later on. How we pass on our stories to the next generation. I enjoyed reading the part of Gran-Gran, and the little girl, and what the connection was. The entire book, was basically the importance of storytelling, and passing it on to the next generation to get over the pain. Is that healing?
I would recommend this to anyone in the medical field. Because this is a good book to discuss about what is healing? To understand healing, and know about the practice of the black midwife in the south. It is unfortunate that they were sought after for years. But, then the doctors felt threatened and the medical board took their privileges away after the 1940's.
This is a good book to discuss with your book club. But, also the historical details gives you things to ponder and talk about. You won't be sorry picking up this book if you are a spiritual person, love historical fiction, and are in the medical field. The book tells the importance of healing one's self, the importance of storytelling, and passing it on to the next generations.
One thing, I have read that others are comparing it to the Help. Why? I don't think it compares. The Healing is so much better, and a wiser story.