Granada is an enslaved girl, torn from her mother’s arms on a whim to be raised in a mansion as the mistress’s pet. Sometimes dressed in finery, sometimes scrubbing the kitchen floor, the confused Granada knows nothing of her past – who her mother is, where her people came from, or of the ancient voices who could guide the girl if only she knew how to use her Sight.
The master brings a healer home, paying an unworldly price for the ancient hoodoo woman. Polly Shine recognizes Granada’s gift and obtains the reluctant girl to be her helper. She begins to learn Polly’s herbs and potions, but the old woman cannot teach her to open a connection with the Old Ones, to become a master healer herself. Only Granada can do that, by reaching back to her past.
The Healing is Jonathan Odell’s beautifully written historical novel of denial and acceptance set in the antebellum Deep South. Every character struggles with the agonizing lies and realities on both sides of the master-slave relationship. Those emotions still reverberated during Odell’s boyhood days in Mississippi amid segregation, lynchings, and the KKK.
In writing The Healing, Odell sought to understand slavery’s terrible consequences and also the fractured society in which he was raised. Just as the power of story helped patients that Polly Shine healed and brought Granada to accept herself, Odell’s story will touch his readers, and I sensed that he found healing in his own words.
Odell’s lush descriptions set me in the Mississippi Delta so clearly that I could feel the humidity and hear the mosquitoes whine. His characters, particularly the richly-drawn Polly Shine, will haunt you long after you finish The Healing.