Plantation mistress Amanda Satterfield’s intense grief over losing her daughter crosses the line into madness when she takes a newborn slave child as her own and names her Granada. Troubled by his wife’s disturbing mental state and concerned about a mysterious plague that is sweeping through the plantation’s slave population, Master Satterfield purchases Polly Shine, a slave woman known as a healer. But the master gets more than he bargained for when Polly’s sharp tongue and troubling predictions cause unrest throughout the plantation. Complicating matters further, Polly recognizes “the gift” in young Granada, and a domestic battle of wills ensues that raises tantalizing questions about who Polly Shine really is: a clever charlatan, a meddlesome witch, or a divine redeemer.
Filled with strong, vivid female characters and inspired by true-life events, Odell brilliantly brings the
pre-Civil War South to life in this masterfully written novel, centered on a mysterious and charismatic
healer readers won’t soon forget.
This video was developed by award-winning artist James Kuether. Photos are of ex-slaves taken in the 1930’s by artists working for the WPA. The song is the spiritual “Keep Your Lamp a Trimmed and a Burning,” sung a capella by a former Mississippi slave, recorded in the 1930’s through the WPA. Music and photos are archived in the Library of Congress.
“Jonathan Odell has written a terrific novel that will take its place in the distinguished pantheon of Southern fiction. Like that showstopping work by Kathryn Stockett, The Healing is another Mississippi-born work of art and Odell’s Polly Shine is a character for the ages.”
—Pat Conroy, author of The Prince of Tides and South of Broad
“Jonathan Odell won me over with his fresh take on an 1860’s Mississippi plantation, and the connective power of story to heal body, mind and community. Long after closing the novel’s final pages, I’m still marveling about Polly Shine, an inventively subversive slave healer, and a character I won’t soon forget.”
—Lalita Tademy, author of Cane River, an Oprah’s Book Club selection, and Red River
“When the young slave Granada Satterfield reluctantly undertakes a quest to recover her own identity, she finds that she must begin by seeking the answers to two questions: Who are my people and what are their stories? Jonathan Odell’s compelling new novel The Healing is a lyrical parable, rich with historical detail and unflinching in the face of disturbing facts.”
—Valerie Martin, author of the Orange Prize winning novel Property
“Jonathan Odell gives voice to strong women at a time in history when their strength might have been their undoing. When Polly Shine’s fierce knowledge comes up against Granada’s stubborn resistance, the reader is held captive as the two attempt to resolve their conflict and Granada is made to face her destiny. This moving story is a must read for fans of historical fiction.”
—Kathleen Grissom, author of The Kitchen House
“The Healing is a moving cri de coeur for all those who yearn to be free, and for the wise women among us who understand that to subjugate one person is to subjugate all of humanity.”
—Robin Oliveira, author of My Name if Mary Sutter
There are great moments, memorable moments, joyous moments; but every once-in-a-while there comes along an occurrence that can only be classified as a peak experience. Last week I got a call from Nan A. Talese, the high priestess of all New York editor/publishers, saying those three little words that insecure authors crave to hear, “Love your book!” My agent, wonder-woman Marly Rusoff, made the deal less than two weeks after sending out the manuscript.
My novel THE HEALING will be published under Nan’s own imprint at Random House in early early 2012. Here’s the quick elevator talk summarizing the plot:
THE HEALING opens in 1930’s Mississippi. A child, traumatized by witnessing her mother’s death, is abandoned to the care of the discredited healer whose traditional cure caused the woman’s demise. Gran Gran, the ancient doctoress, who has failed not only the child’s mother, but the entire community as well, is presented with one last attempt at redemption. Gran Gran must lead this child out of her catatonic darkness. At first, the old woman’s mixtures of roots, herbs and potions have no effect. It is only when Gran Gran revives the buried memory of her own childhood, and begins whispering the stories aloud, that the girl begins to respond. Over the course of the healing, Gran Gran weaves the story of a life spent on a Mississippi plantation as a reluctant apprentice to the cantankerous slave doctoress and miracle worker, Polly Shine. Together Gran Gran and the girl Violet learn of the power of story to heal the body, the spirit and the soul of an entire people.
I’ll keep you updated as we go through the editing and pre-publication process. After 6 years, the stars have aligned.