The Healing Spell is a middlegrade contemporary novel by Kimberley Griffiths Little.
Eleven-year-old Livie and her mother have never gotten along well. She's not girly like her sisters and would rather go frogging out in the bayou with her daddy than shopping with her Mamma. They've had many an argument and seem to never see eye-to-eye. But then her Mamma is in a coma, unable to wake up - and maybe she never will. And suddenly Livie is keeping a very big secret about what happened. She knows she is responsible for it, but she can't tell anyone - she can't see her daddy's eyes hate her.
But everybody wants her to help out with Mamma, and Livie can't even bring herself to touch her. What if she hurts her again? So she's branded selfish and uncaring by her older sister, and seems to keep hurting her sensitive little sister. The only friend she seems to have, besides her BFF whom she still can't bring herself to tell the truth to, is a baby alligator she found in the bayou. But despite its current harmlessness, its still forbidden to make an alligator a pet, making it just another secret Livie has to keep.
Feeling like an outsider and full of guilt, Livie tries to stay in the background. But she wants her Mamma to wake up, and she knows that running away isn't going to fix anything. So she decides she has to at least try. But can she, an eleven-year-old tomboy, fix anything when she was the one that broke it in the first place?
Our main character's sad, worried voice is believable right away. You really do feel like you are listening to a heartbroken, scared little girl's thoughts. The town curiosity and her own guarded secrets haunt her, bringing about a quiet despair and tender presentation by the author. There such a feeling of false hope and inevitability of death for Livie's mother that you can sense the denial, while you're doing it yourself.
Little allows Livie's strong guilt to damage her already unsteady relationship with her sister's even further - until finally a healing begins, slowly. It is meaningful and gentle, but the hope does return as our brave and ultimately goodhearted protagonist begins to recognize her responsibilities and flaws.
The Healing Spell is a heartbreaking, yet uplifting, bittersweet story. The character is young, but the premise is most definitely appreciated by an older reader. Kimberley Griffiths Little allows the novel to go to some horrible coming-of-age moments that are extremely sad, present family dynamics that are compelling, honest, and raw, and gives an almost unfinished ending that is both satisfying and tear-jerking, as well as a bit frustrating in its lack of a true conclusion.
But what I can say for sure was that The Healing Spell was worth the read. It is a poignant, sometimes painful, contemporary book that intertwines a little Cajun magic with a terrible family tragedy. Lovely.
***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)