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Jones's first major American publication since Eva's Man (1976) is prickly, frequently tendentious and occasionally brilliant. From the opening pages we know we're in the presence of a masterly writer whose life experiences have sharpened her edges rather than softened them. The narrator, African American faith-healer Harlan Jane Eagleton, travels from small town to small town working her miracles. But, as we soon learn, being a healer is only her latest incarnation after stints as a beautician in her hometown of Louisville, Ky., as a racetrack gambler and as a business manager for the rock-'n-roller Joan Savage. Harlan is more sure of what she's not (anybody's fool) than what she is, and underneath her "countrified" voice is a shrewd observer of human nature. She is also remarkably well read in theories of art, science, literature and musicand she proves it at every opportunity, in long-winded diatribes too often explained away with a coy "I read about that somewhere." Despite Harlan's tiresomely false naïveté (and the tedious political speechifying of the people she meets), readers will care about her and will eagerly follow her journey to heal herself first before she can touch others ("If I wasn't the one doing the healing, I'd be among the tough nuts"). It is through her flawed but gravely human voice that Jones's flinty work is quietly redeemed. (Feb.) FYI: The Healing is the first novel Beacon has published in its 143-year history. The press plans to issue another novel by Jones, as well as a book-length poem of hers, in 1999. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Jones' first novel since Eva's Woman (1975) is the only original novel published by Beacon in its almost 150-year history, and quite a book it is. The experiences of a diverse group of characters are used to explore issues facing black women in contemporary America. Harlan Jane Eagleton, the primary narrator, relates her transition from the daughter and granddaughter of beauticians in Louisville to her job as business manager for Joan Savage, a brilliant and mercurial rock star, and finally, to her experiences as a faith healer. Jones has peopled her novel with strong and original women, including Harlan's grandmother and Joan Savage, whose act of violence propels Harlan into faith healing. Jones has a wonderful ear for dialogue; her characters' sentences are filled with repetitions, abrupt changes of subject, and other quirks of everyday speech. The style of presentation--almost entirely dialogue and jumping forward and backward with a carefully planned but seemingly reckless disregard for any linear narrative--takes some getting used to, but readers who persevere will find it is worth it. --Nancy Pearl