HEALER by Carol Cassella

Book Quote:

“It seems a perverse joke, Claire thinks, after years of saving and insuring it had not been a fire or flood or disease that brought their world down. It wasn’t global warming or terrorism, no collapsing levies or tsunamis…. Instead, for Claire and Addison and Jory, it felt quite personal, like a precisely-placed bomb destroying only their lives, leaving their neighbors and friends to stand unscathed and sympathetically gawking.”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky В (OCT 16, 2010)

In Healer, by Carol Cassella, forty-three year old stay-at-home mom Claire Boehning had been living a charmed life with her biochemist husband, Addison, and their only daughter, fourteen-year-old Jory. After Addison sold his biotech company, he and his wife bought a beautiful lakeside house in Seattle, where Jory attended private school, took ballet lessons, and enjoyed hanging out at the mall with her friends. Suddenly, everything turns sour, and mother and daughter are forced to retreat to their vacation home in the mountains of Washington State, while Addison scrambles to recoup the losses that Claire knew nothing about until a store rejected her credit card.

One of the problems with living in a freezing summer dwelling in the middle of winter is that Claire does not have enough money to buy fuel. It will be a challenge just to keep the temperature bearable. Jory is in shock; she cannot believe that she will be living with her mother like a pauper, seeing her father intermittently, and attending a public school with kids she has never met. To make matters worse, Claire needs to find a job for the first time in fifteen years. She is a licensed doctor who quit medicine before completing her residency. Desperate for work, she takes the only position available, at a clinic where the patients are mostly migrant workers. She bones up on her rusty Spanish and scrambles to relearn the medical skills she has forgotten. Occasionally, Addison visits his wife and daughter, updating them on his efforts to find an investor who will help him get his lab running again.

Addison may have irrevocably lost his wife’s trust; certainly his pride is in ruins. Jory is still a child in many ways, and she takes out her frustration and bitterness on Claire, who is by default a single parent while her husband is busy trying to rebuild his career. As a fledgling doctor, Claire learns to live on little sleep, putting in long hours with her boss, Dr. Dan Zelaya, and his dedicated staff. Although she still loves Addison and wants to keep her family together, Claire cannot help but wonder if she can rely on a man whose imprudent decisions landed them in such a colossal mess.

This is a touching story about a family in crisis, not just financially, but also emotionally. The author goes back and forth in time, slowly filling in the back story of how Claire and Addison met, Jory’s birth, and the years leading up to the financial implosion. Cassella is a nuanced writer who skillfully sets up each scene and develops her characters and engrossing plot with care. We cannot help but sympathize with the overwhelmed protagonist, for whom no quick fix is on the horizon. Cassella sensitively explores the forces that keep families together and the misfortunes that can drive them apart. Although Claire adores her daughter, she is determined to keep her sullen adolescent in line, while letting her know how important she is to both her parents. A subplot about a Nicaraguan woman on a sad quest highlights how the haves exploit the have-nots in our society.

In fact, materialism is a central focus in Healer: How important is it to wear the latest fashions, have the most up-to-date electronic gizmos, and live in a fancy house? On the other hand, what is our responsibility to the poorest and most disenfranchised among us? Just as there are no cut-and-dried answers to these questions, Cassella offers no simple solutions to the problems plaguing the Boehnings. At least, the hardships that Claire endures help her grow from a dependent person to a self-reliant and strong-willed individual, who is no longer afraid to stand up for herself. It is always best to be prepared for the unexpected, Claire realizes: “The truth about life…is that you never know what lies around the corner.” With her strong second novel, Carol Cassella proves that her debut effort, the compelling Oxygen, was no fluke.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 38 readers
PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster (September 7, 2010)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Carol Cassella
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
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October 17, 2010 В· Judi Clark В· No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  В· Posted in: Contemporary, Family Matters, Reading Guide, US Northwest

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