The Healer’s Daughter

Written by Charlotte Hinger
Review by Viviane Crystal

Bethany Herbert, the daughter of a famous healer named Queen Bee, leaves Kentucky for Nicodemus, Kansas, a town formed so that only black people can settle there. It’s 1877, not so many years after the Civil War, and the initial hardships are all-consuming, as there is literally nothing on the land they are being allowed to settle. Bethany helps to increase the population by writing handbills advertising the “freedom” of Nicodemus. Ever so gradually, trust begins to form as their dreams become reality. Bethany also opens a school to teach children how to read and write. Little by little she also begins to accumulate plants that will be used for healing.

The depiction of this story is fashioned so realistically that readers are revved up for these strong, determined people to succeed. Beth will fall in love with one of the settlers, Jed, who is a smart lawyer and savvy about the documents they will need to be legally considered part of the state. However, the arrival of Beth’s mother, Queen Bee, almost undoes all that the community has achieved because of the vicious, searing hate she bears every white person in the world. This final conflict forged by neighboring white people is both heated and cathartic for many who need to unload their memories and their own prejudices.

Beth is more than a healer of diseased bodies; indeed, her speaking truth is healing balm to the mind and spirit. See how this gift moves even her own mother. The Healer’s Daughter is remarkable, moving historical fiction on a topic given little attention, the settlement of free African-Americans in alarmingly hostile territory.