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From The CriticsThe mining towns of northern Ontario, generally perceived as cold and prosaic locales, are hardly frequent settings for tempestuous literary exploration. But in this oblique, intense novel, the Canadian Shield becomes the setting for a heaving, twisting piece of ersatz Gothic in which an archetypically depressed city boy is swept into the kind of rural netherworld that explains why most urbanites hesitate to wander into unfamiliar diners.
The titular healer is seen mainly through the eyes of a visiting freelance writer. He is both scouting a piece on Caroline, the 20-year-old woman with healing powers, and avoiding his depression following his young wife's recent death.
While he finds the healer, we don't see her do any healingexcept of the writer's very personal malaise. Caroline is fighting off her abusive realtor father and his Native American sidekick, a pair of witheringly evil creations. The novel is full of deaths, woundings, car crashes, wilderness, abuse, inhumanity and desperate connections, not to mention the fall-out from a flashpoint locale where good and evil seem to battle more often than the bus comes.
Hollingshead's esoteric and reflexive writing style is neither easy to follow nor a pleasure to read. But by the end of a long haul through a book with considerable thematic pretension, one has developed a considerable (if reluctant) affection for Hollingshead's portentous products of a very cold and disturbed place.