The Reluctant Healer
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Release date: October 8, 2018
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton
Andrew Himmel's original debut novel is told with a fresh writing style, an eccentric approach to his subjects and characters, and a dry, wry wit, especially in the descriptions and observations expressed in the viewpoint of the novel's main character, New York attorney Will Alexander.
The main theme of The Reluctant Healer is the collision of Alexander's legalist, rationalist world view which is challenged when he meets the sexy New Ager Erica Wells. When they meet, Erica reveals she's an energy healer who can perceive Alexander has extraordinary abilities as a natural healer. Alexander doesn't accept that judgement but finds himself drawn to the beautiful woman who is an intellectual match for him even if her metaphysical beliefs are the polar opposite of his own.
Very reluctantly, Alexander finds himself being put in situations where his natural energies seem to, in fact, cure all manner of diseases and afflictions. For Erica, natural healers like Alexander are badly needed in a new era where viruses are becoming immune to antibiotics and it's natural energy, energies found in everything, that can be cures when the afflicted are merely in Alexander's presence.
Alexander's journey takes him into all manner of circumstances including long motorcycle rides, theft of an opponent's cell phone, and situations that ultimately place him in legal jeopardy. To say more would be to swerve into the world of spoilers.
Himmel's style and tone are extremely cerebral and the book is not light reading. It's a book with serious intent. In supplementary material at the end of the book, Himmel reveals much of the book's content was inspired by his own journey, very much like Alexander's, as the author' wife Michelle became interested in energy healing and pulled him into her realm of Universal Energy healing. Jumping off from his real-life experiences, Himmel claims his novel was ignited when he mused, "What if the conventional individual, rigid in his beliefs, developed the capability of healing others, even as he distrusted much of the alternative world? His struggle would become poignant and pronounced, because he would be grappling not just with tension in his relationship but also with internal conflict with phenomena that challenged both his sense of self and his worldview."
In a quiz prepared for readers with an academic bent, Himmel says, "The author believes that The Reluctant Healer is a bigger story about how we as human beings get along with and coexist with people who are different from—and sometimes the complete opposite of— us."
It seems to me larger themes also include a modern twist on the conflicts between the rational and the mystical. In other words, The Reluctant Healer is a brain tickler designed to stimulate thought an reflection in Himmel's readers. He offers no answers, no final conclusions, advocates no point-of-view, and leaves the story open for a sequel already in progress.
Not a book for all readers, but certainly one for readers who like to digest what they read and be challenged by above average language choices, imaginative imagery, and be willing to absorb the story slowly. I had to read it in chunks, always eagerly returning quickly to continue the flow.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Nov. 27, 2019 at:
As New York attorney Will Alexander discovers, Kalil Gibran spoke wisely when he said “Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that Faith is his twin brother”.
THE RELUCTANT HEALER gently meanders through Will’s growing love for Erica and his struggle with doubt about her unconventional metaphysical beliefs, in general, and about his healing abilities, in particular.
After a series of, to Will, inexplicable events, he reaches the point where he takes a leap of faith – he takes a six month leave of absence from his legal firm to explore his healing abilities. The real world intrudes on Will’s inner journey with betrayal and other challenges that inexorably push him onto a new path – a path that, for all his questions and doubt, show Will as a man of faith who has the capacity to bring spiritual, if not physical, healing to others.
With touches of humour, an easy-to-read style and well-drawn characters, Himmel weaves thought-provoking questions into the tapestry of a very human man reluctantly experiencing the transcendental powers of an inner awakening. Love is the catalyst that pushes Will Alexander out of his comfort zone, but it’s his own innate capacity for an enquiring faith that allows Will to survive the initiate’s journey and embark on the next phase of his spiritual evolution, strengthened by both his deepened concept of love and his unanswered questions.
If you’re a reader who wants a light-hearted book to escape your questions, this is not the book for you. If you’re willing to look beyond the ordinary concepts of faith and healing, there is much in THE RELUCTANT HEALER to engage both your reason and your emotion.