Micheline Lee’s debut novel, The Healing Party is so intense and personal, it almost feels like a memoir. The story is about a dying mother and how her evangelical, Christian family rally around to support her while they wait for God to grant them all a miracle. The book is ultimately quite a rich and complex one about grief, hope, faith and love.
The story’s narrator is Natasha Chan, a creative 25-year-old who was raised as a Christian Charismatic. The devotees of this particular religious order pray, preach, sing and speak in tongues. Once Natasha finished high school she became estranged from her family and fled from Melbourne to Darwin. While she is spiritual in a new age sense, she rejected the faith that she was brought up to believe as gospel.
Natasha receives a phone call from her elder sister Anita that will change her life. Their mother has been diagnosed with a terminal cancer. Natasha said she would return to Melbourne immediately to face her family and the conflicted emotions she had about individual members and their obedient senses of faith.
The Chan family is made up of the strong and steely mother, Irene, who is adored by many for being straightforward and a natural beauty. There is her husband, Paul, a convert to the Charismatic faith and one enthusiastic and unrelenting devotee. He is also an intense artist, manipulator and womaniser. It is hard for Chan’s daughters to reconcile all of these contradictory elements to his personality and Natasha finds this the most difficult of all. The Chan girls are made up of the bossy elder sister, Anita, the fanatical, Maria and the reserved and anorexic, Patsy.
One day Paul Chan declares that he has received a message from the Lord. Irene will be healed of her cancer thanks to a miracle, provided that everyone believes and does not question this. The family plan a fabulous healing party with their friends in order to celebrate. But Natasha is left reeling, her relationship with her family was already quite fractured and fraught. She also can’t help but think that their belief in the miracle is a denial of the inevitability of death.
The Healing Party has gorgeous, evocative prose. Micheline Lee uses a deft hand to navigate some rather complicated topics and for the most part makes the story feel like a real emotional rollercoaster. While some readers may find the religious elements a tad over-bearing, preachy and tiresome, the story is ultimately a warm and raw reflection on some rather difficult subjects like death, dying and forgiveness.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was won by the writer through a Goodreads giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28797084-the-healing-party