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9780006551454

The Healer

Greg Hollingshead

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A tale of mystery and healing from the Canadian forests, where Nature can be nasty and men can easily go mad. * We're in the Canadian uplands, a landscape of lakes and forests, cabins and canoes, hunters and hunted. The Healer is a young teenage girl with a gift she finds hard to bear: she seems able to heal the sick, to drive out foul spirits. Her father is a brutal man: strong, tempestuous and violent, he finds it hard to accommodate his daughter's abilities in the way she would wish. A journalist, our principal narrator, comes between them, sent by his magazine to secure a story. * Entranced by the girl and the emptiness of the land, he buys from a persuasive realtor the derelict lakeside cabin which becomes the centre of the action, as all three main characters swirl into a vortex of vengeance and violence -- violence reflected in a landscape of storms and floods of terrifying power. Hollingshead proves himself a writer who knows the lethal force latent in the natural world. And that man is an animal too.

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Review:

If anyone needs healing, it's Tim Wakelin, freelance journalist and recent widower. When he comes to the small Canadian mining town of Grant, Wakelin thinks it's to do a story on a purported faith healer; instead, he discovers a balm for his own wounded soul. Healing comes in the person of Caroline Troyer, a woman with miraculous, if unpredictable, powers. Passing himself off as a man in search of property in the country, Wakelin convinces Caroline, whose father is a realtor, to show him around. It isn't long before he realizes that far from being a charlatan, this woman is the real McCoy; on impulse he decides not to write about her after all and to actually buy that mythical cabin in the woods he's been using as a cover story. But Wakelin's arrival upsets a precarious balance in Caroline's personal life as she struggles to separate herself from her controlling father and embittered mother. Internal struggles become externalized when Wakelin gets lost in the woods and she must save him.

Greg Hollingshead's tale of love, betrayal, and redemption in the backwoods of Canada features interesting characters and a fascinating premise; unfortunately, the writing is often too overwrought to bear the weight of the story. Describing a meal, he writes: "Eggs of crumbling yolk and rubber-white albumen on a carbon laminate, dank toast, coffee a rusted knife-edge of heartburn, thin and without taste. A breakfast something like a story about a healer, something like a saint's life. Of dubious provenance. The dog's breakfast of narratives. Hearsay, exaggeration, wishful thinking, local legend. Followed now through a confusion of smoke and opinion, in a place for locals, a meetinghouse of initiates, with the blanket of the familiar draped all round. Cozy as heaven, old as hell." If a plate of bacon and eggs can elicit this kind of drama, what can we expect when something important happens? Despite its faults, however, The Healer has one ace in the hole: Caroline Troyer, an original and satisfyingly complex character who consistently confounds expectations. --Margaret Prior

About the Author:

Greg hollingshead is the author of one previous novel, Spin Dry, and three sets of stories, Famous Players, White Buick and The Roaring Girl. Only The Roaring Girl was published outside Canada. He teaches at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

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