Healer by Carol Cassella
Published by Simon & Schuster
Review copy sent by the publicist
Claire is getting started with medical school when she meets and falls in love with Addison Boehning, a talented biochemist. They marry and just before Claire’s graduation from med school, she has complications with a pregnancy, forcing her to leave school unfinished. Addison’s discoveries afford them a luxurious life, and Claire is content being a stay-at-home mom to their daughter Jory. But when Addison gambles everything they have on a lifesaving cancer drug that goes wrong, they are forced to move to a more affordable city, where Claire finds a job while Addison attempts to salvage his career. Claire and Addison must find a way to fix their finances and also their relationship, as all this stress has their marriage on a collision course for disaster.
Healer is a novel that depicts a family going through issues similar to many families today. The economy has really taken a nosedive the past couple of years, and as a result of that, many families are living drastically different lives than they did just a few short years ago. Addison and Claire are no different – they had a beautiful home, drove expensive cars, sent their daughter to a fantastic school, and surrounded themselves with people who were just like them. Yet when Addison made an extremely poor decision to spend their last pennies on his cancer research, everything crumbles overnight. They are forced to abandon their cushy life and live in the middle of nowhere, with very little money, and Claire begins to work overtime just to make ends meet.
I love how current this novel is. While this family’s circumstances are slightly unique because not many people are biochemists who lose their life savings researching cancer, so many people are going through a tough time financially. Cassella really captured just how devastating it can be to lose so much so quickly. The Boehning family had to make huge changes in a very short period of time, and I appreciate how Cassella managed to show the reader how difficult this was for each of the three members of this family. Addison, clearly responsible for their financial ruin, was mostly in denial about their struggles and stayed away from home most of the time to avoid facing what he’d done to the family. Claire, the practical one, immediately found a job and began providing for her family in a way she’d never done before. And poor Jory, a preteen who just wanted everything to stay the same, had to deal with a new school, a new town, and a completely different way of life. All three of them had their own demons to struggle with and Cassella did an excellent job fleshing out these characters to a point where they felt like real people.
There’s one aspect of the novel I haven’t yet mentioned – Claire befriends a Nicaraguan woman, Miguela, who is on a quest to find the truth about an aspect of her past. The way Miguela’s story ties in with Claire and Addison’s is interesting and was an unexpected surprise for me. I was expecting Miguela to be a small part of the novel, but she turned out to be involved in the book in a big way and I particularly enjoyed that.
Healer is an interesting and well thought out novel about one family’s struggles to get out from under financial ruin. The characters are complex, the writing is very good, and the novel ended in a place I was very happy with. Overall Healer was a great read and I’ll be reading Cassella’s debut novel, Oxygen, very soon.