Livie, the eleven year-old protagonist of The Healing Spell, by author Kimberley Griffiths Little has to heal her mother. Check out the detailed review on "There's A Book."
Livie, who lives with her family in the mysterious alligator-denizened and cypress-shaded Bayou, has a big problem. Her mother fell out of a canoe-like pirogue, into the swamp, struck her head, and is in a coma. Livie was the only one with her when she fell. Though not responsible for the accident, Livie believes she is. After all, she had been angry at her mother lately, certain she is the lesser-loved middle child of three girls.
When the book begins, it is eleven days after Momma's accident. Daddy is carrying his unconscious wife into their house on the bayou. He has snatched her from the hospital, against medical advice, believing love is what his wife needs.
Terrified, Livie says, "My chest got so tight if felt like a gator squeezing my heart between his jaws. . . . Momma looked like she was dead, but really wasn't." Livie broods and can't even touch her mother. She can't feel the healing love that Daddy says Momma needs.
A brain injury was wisely chosen by Kimberley Griffiths Little, in my opinion, to explore the role of love and hope in healing. It is for the most part true that all doctors can do for brain injured patients is keep them alive and prevent further injury. Doctors cannot knit broken nerves together, at least not yet. But still, brains heal and perhaps love and hope speeds it along.
What will Livie do? Determined to undo Momma's injury, she gets in her pirogue and poles through the swamp to find the "Traiteur," a Cajun folk healer.
The issue of healing after brain injury has been in the news. We have seen, as in the case of Representative Gabby Giffords, that there is a point after brain injury when doctors have less and less to offer. Love and hope has to take over. Can we credit Gabby Gifford's husband, dedicated occupational and speech therapists, family and friends for propelling her along a continuum of recovery? I think we can. Love and hope perhaps creates a healing environment. Is it positive energy? A decrease in stress hormones? It's a mystery.
I think the healing properties of love is behind the traiteur's "spell." The healer's plan is to tap into Livie's love for her mother and use it. How?
To set the "spell" in motion, the Livie is sent on a complicated scavenger hunt. She has to gather personal objects of Momma's and memories about her.
The good memories surprise her. For instance she remembers baking with Mom: "I let out a gasp as a memory rushed into my mind. The only reason I knew how to make snicker doodles at all, my favorite cookie, was because Mama had taught me once. When she was in a good mood, she'd make a batch, and she'd give me a whole plate to eat with milk while they were still warm."
It seems that with each memory, Livie's angry little eleven year old heart grows less cold. This, I think, is what the "traiteur" has intended.
At the end of the novel, as Livie's affection grows, her mother begins to move her limbs. Something magical is happening!
Will Mom get better?
At the end of the book I believed Mom's coma might lift. I also believed that if Mom does heal and get up from her bed someday, Livie's love would have had something to do with it, revealed to her and focused by the wise traitor.
In my opinion, The Healing Spell makes us believe in the healing power of love and hope, something all healers would wisely inventory, encourage, and put to use.