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The Reluctant Healer

The Reluctant Healer

by Andrew D. Himmel


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Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2018
Winner of 2019 International Book Awards (General Fiction and Inspirational Fiction Categories) 
Winner, 2019 New York City Big Book Award (General Fiction) 

Between Doubt and Belief
The Reluctant Healer tells the story of a young attorney who is torn between mounting evidence that he has the spiritual ability to heal others and his life-long skepticism of alternative views. Will Alexander is cautious and conventional. But when he meets Erica, a beautiful, intense energy healer, he becomes troubled not only by her unorthodox endeavors but also by the limitations of his own existence. Amidst this turmoil, Will is startled to discover that he may possess metaphysical gifts of healing that confront the narrow doctrines of his regulated life.

​The Reluctant Healer paints a portrait of a reasonable man who traces a path between skepticism and belief. Flawed, funny, and agnostic, Will distrusts much of the alternative world, even as he struggles internally with phenomena that challenge both his sense of self and his orderly perspective. Will’s love for Erica, the exposure to her world, and his newfound powers place his life in a state of uncertainty, teetering between disruption and liberation.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626345300
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Publication date: 10/08/2018
Pages: 312
Sales rank: 701,447
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Andrew Himmel practices law in New York City and is a founding partner of Himmel & Bernstein, LLP, located in the Flatiron District. Prior to his legal career, Mr. Himmel worked in book publishing for The Dial Press, Harper & Row and William Morrow. While at William Morrow, Mr. Himmel worked for the veteran editor Harvey Ginsberg, whose writers included Saul Bellow and John Irving. Mr. Himmel lives in Manhattan with his wife, the universal energy healer Michele LaGamba-Himmel. Their daughter, Nicole, is a writer, who also lives in Manhattan.

Read an Excerpt



Night approached, and I wanted a drink. Actually, I wanted a few drinks, but first, I had to escape. This task, on a bleak Manhattan afternoon in July, was tricky, because Norman, the litigation partner, was once again prowling the hallways. Veteran associates of Canaan & Cassidy had committed to memory the twists and irregularities of the corridors leading to the elevator bank ... to freedom. The more challenging skill was predicting the chaotic path Norman might choose on his grim Friday patrol, for this was Norman's passion: to capture a junior attorney near the beckoning elevator, so close to freedom, and to ambush the associate with the assignment of reviewing a document production or financial prospectus, an undertaking that would consume the weekend and snuff out any hopes of release that the associate had foolishly entertained.

Thick strokes of sun filtered through the law firm's windows. My hopes were high, and I was patient. I waited until Norman walked by my office, his heavy frame displacing the dank air of the hallway. Then, I stepped outside my office and followed him at a strategic distance. He listed to the right with each step, his wrinkled shirt refusing to remain tucked. I heard footsteps and spun around to see Stefan Ortvald quietly falling into step behind me. He knew I was following Norman, and we both knew that hiding in plain sight was our only path to deliverance.

But Stefan's presence was unwelcome. He was tall and clad in a crisp Armani suit, and I was rumpled. Plus, he was Danish and spoke English with an accent suggesting flair and confidence. And while we were both associates, Stefan was a rising star and possessed a subtle authority that I lacked. If Norman turned around and saw us both, he would choose me.

I quickened my pace, then abruptly pivoted to the elevator bank. Stefan, close behind, almost tripped over me and suppressed a laugh. I pushed the button and noticed that the Down arrow was faded, probably eroded by the oily fingers of associates over the years, frantically pressing the button to hasten the arrival of the elevator. We tumbled into the elevator, and the doors closed. Stefan and I held our breaths until we felt the downward pull toward ground level.

Once outside, Stefan faced me squarely. "You do not fool me, Will," he said. "There is brilliance within you, and my gift is recognizing your talents, your artistry in evasion. We will celebrate tonight."

Why not? I had nothing else to do. The long expanse of a solitary weekend lay before me, and Stefan was as close to being a friend as anyone I knew at the firm. As we headed downtown in the cab, I reflected on our escape, which was more exciting than the work I was escaping from. I was a graduate of Hamilton College and Cornell Law School, and a third-year associate at Canaan. As we drove past the flickering lights of the city, I told myself, not for the first time, that I did not pine for more, that I did not occasionally fend off despair contemplating the vague emptiness of my life.

"Hey," I heard.

I turned toward Stefan, who had shifted closer to me in the back seat of the taxi. He smiled broadly.

"You have no idea what we just escaped from," he said.

"You were never in any danger," I replied. "Me, that's a different story." Stefan bent forward and looked around as if to guard against eavesdroppers.

"Do you know about Norman's latest client? An administrator of pension plans. Have you ever read a pension document, Will? Not just the summary, but the actual text of a defined benefit plan? Good Lord. We're free, Will, we're free."

"For the weekend," I said. Stefan inched closer to me.

"Just last Friday," he said, "I made it to the elevator. Norman was nowhere in sight. The doors were closing quickly. And then a hand stabbed through the opening. And then another hand. Big, fat hands." Stefan laughed loudly as he held up his own hands, clenching his fingers. "For a few seconds, all I could see were these two paws, prying the elevator doors open. Norman was grunting loudly. The elevator was fighting back, but Norman was too strong. He was committed. He yanked the doors back open. And there he was, staring at me, breathing heavily, his hair flying."

I started to laugh as well. "Don't forget the sweat pouring down his face."

"Good point. The sweat just flowing freely. And he yelled, 'Ortvald!,' even though I was right in front of him. He was triumphant, and I knew I was screwed. 'Ortvald,' he said again, this time very quiet, very sinister."

"Your weekend plans dashed, right?"

"Exactly. So Norman stepped into the elevator and pressed the Stop button. The elevator shook, and he put his face right up against mine. His breath stank. And I had to say something, not to escape, but just to find some dignity in all of this terror. But before I could speak, he smiled warmly and said, 'Ortvald, have a great weekend.' And he spun around and walked out of the elevator."

I looked at Stefan skeptically. "Funny story. But the truth is, Norman has to be careful with you."

"With me?"

"Stefan, you're part of the new order. Or you will be soon. And Norman knows it."

Stefan sat back. "I'm just a lowly associate, Will."

"You're a senior associate, with a strong client base. You're a lock for partner. Norman will be escaping from you in the not-too-distant future."

"Not sure about that," Stefan said. "But if I'm the new guard, Will, you could be right there with me. You should keep that in mind."

Stefan offered this observation in a kindly manner, but I also wondered whether his comment had a sharper edge. Stefan navigated office politics with ease, but I had trouble summoning enthusiasm for such maneuvering.

* * *

We settled on Mikonos, a brightly lit midtown Greek restaurant with a wide, marble bar carved into a semicircle and separated from its dining area by a row of giant, porcelain urns. Almost as soon as we entered, I wanted to leave. The bar area was jammed, and suddenly, I desired the ease of a solitary evening, not the noisy surfeit of brash, confident professionals. Stefan loudly summoned the bartender for two glasses of scotch.

"You are weak," Stefan said. "The slightest disturbance to your tidy existence, and you are ready to flee. I will drink heavily tonight, and I will not drink alone."

I downed my glass quickly and began to relax. The soft jazz block chords of Oscar Peterson playing "Have You Met Miss Jones?" floated across the room. We were a solid twenty feet from the restaurant's tables, but the smell of the charred T-bones and garlic-laced filet mignons swept over us.

"Do you know why I like scotch?" I asked. But Stefan was staring off into the distance. I poked him hard. He didn't flinch.

"I like scotch," I said, "because the more I drink, the uglier you get." I held up two fingers and grabbed two more glasses from the bartender. I drank mine, and pushed the second glass toward Stefan. He continued to ignore me. I pushed him gently, but he was solid and didn't budge.

"Look," he said. "They do not seem real."

I followed his stare and saw two women at the edge of the bar, near the front window, facing each other and holding hands. One of the women was in her midthirties, sharply dressed, slightly overweight, and had her eyes closed tight. The other was younger, and I thought slimmer, although she was dressed more shabbily, a tent-like poncho thrown over her shoulders. Her eyes were green, so intensely green that they seemed fake. I thought Stefan had been talking about the women, but I realized he was referring to the eyes.

"You're right," I said. "They can't be real."

"Her eyes shone forward like tractor beams," Stefan said, "piercing through the night, illuminating all that lay before her."

"Really? You should tell her that. She would probably appreciate poetry, something from the early Star Trek genre." I remained fixated on the ponchoed woman.

Stefan faced me. "Poetry. A proven technique," he said. "'Had we but world enough, and time, this coyness, Lady, were no crime.' Andrew Marvell, sixteenth or seventeenth century ... I cannot remember. Will, you should know: that line rarely fails."

"That's your technique?" I asked.

"It is, and I pass the poem off as my own. The words have power. They break down barriers. I credit Andrew Marvell with my relationship with Ava."

"So, show me how to break down this barrier, how to approach the green-eyed lady." I threw down one more drink. "You might want to wait until they're finished doing whatever it is that they're ..."

But Stefan had already grabbed my arm and was dragging me toward the two women. I stumbled after him as he elbowed his way through the crowd, stopping in front of them. By this time, I had managed to break free from Stefan's grip and was still a few steps behind him.

"Call it intuition," Stefan said to the women, "but I am convinced that you would benefit from a recitation of lyrical poetry. So I have asked my friend here ..." Stefan spun around and gestured toward me. "I have asked my friend here to recite a few lines for you."

The sharply dressed woman offered a dull smile. She turned to her friend. "I'm late as it is, Erica. We'll talk later." She left, and the younger, green-eyed woman stood her ground, alternating her gaze from Stefan to me. Norman might choose me. But this woman, Erica, would choose Stefan. They fit. They were both, frankly, gorgeous. I imagined them together and planned to retreat back into the crowd. Maybe my chances would improve after Stefan confessed to his current relationship.

"'Now therefore, while the youthful hue sits on thy skin like morning dew,'" Stefan began.

"I thought your friend was going to recite poetry," Erica said. She looked at me then, not with warmth but with the attention paid to someone who might be auditioning for a role.

"He tends to freeze in moments of stress," Stefan said, "so at times I have to help him."

Erica moved toward the bar, elbowing past Stefan, and found an empty stool not far from where I was standing. She then summoned the bartender, presumably to settle her tab. Stefan smiled, raised his glass to me, and wandered away. The crowd shifted, following some primal edict of reorganization, and I found myself directly in front of her.

Her eyes darted about, and she seemed troubled. I calculated that I had no prayer with her, which was fine. Anyway, she dressed like a slob. It was as if she set into motion a battle between her beauty and appearance, daring one to outdo the other.

"You hurt my friend's feelings," I said. "So I'm going to tend to him now. I'll get back to you later if I have time."

I turned away from her, then felt a gentle tap on my shoulder.

"Don't move," she told me. She looked past me, and her mouth opened. I craned my neck to follow her gaze.

"I asked you not to move," she said. Then, more softly, "Please."

She lowered her eyes to me. "There are colors emanating from you. Bright, splashy colors. Hues of pure green, to the higher-spectrum colors of blues, to violet. Very unusual. I see their aura all about you. They are emanating, but they haven't quite broken free. They are struggling."

"The colors? I began, but she continued.

"The powers reflected in those colors. You have substance, perhaps powers, but you don't even know it, and you keep them bottled up." Was she toying with me?

"You're coming on to me," I said. "I don't know how I feel about that."

"Look at your tie," she said, with a sudden trace of annoyance. "You've shoved it up so tight that you're choking yourself."

"Why is this of any interest to you?"

"I didn't say it was interesting. Sad, maybe. But not interesting."

I was expecting a wry smile, something to soften what otherwise might be taken for an insult. But the smile never came.

"Okay, why do you find this ... me ... sad?"

"You're trapped. You're here, in a bar, with no partner or client to impress. You are an attorney or banker, right? And despite your momentary freedom before you march back to the office on Monday morning, you still feel like you need to choke off your air supply with your uniform."

"That's deep," I said. "Also, I'm a glorified proofreader for the filthy rich, and all I do is help one faceless corporation gain advantage over another while real people with real problems suffer."

"Something like that," she said. "Plus, you drink too much."

"My name's Will," I said.

"Erica," she responded. "Erica Wells." Then she walked away. As I watched her, I realized two things. First, I was drunk. Second, I was thrilled to be the object of her abuse. I wanted more. I found her scorn comforting, something I could possibly break through. I could reach her, I thought, on a deep level that would dispense with a relationship's need for nurture and preparation. Or maybe I was just plastered.

She moved slowly toward the exit, perhaps expecting me to follow. I plowed through the crowd after her and brushed shoulders with Bryce Corwin, the head of Canaan's corporate department. He ignored me and proceeded to the maître d' desk with a small entourage of younger associates. When I joined the firm years ago, Corwin assigned me the task of trolling through hundreds of documents to determine whether there was anything troublesome about a company the firm's client was purchasing. On completion, I was called into Corwin's office. And while he had a reputation for cruelty, he appeared happy, but only because the ineptitude of my work gave him an opportunity to use a line that he had undoubtedly perfected over the years. "The difference between what I asked you to do and what you did," he said, "is the difference between shitting and fucking."

I pushed through that memory, forced myself to look past Corwin, and positioned myself in front of Erica before she could exit.

"There must be great pleasure in this, coming to a place where professionals congregate so you can verbally abuse them," I said.

She scanned me, as if she had found an imperfection worth exploring. I thought she might walk away again.

"It's perfect, really," I continued. "You have contempt for us, but you can also save us. It's one-stop shopping. And I admire your technique. No academic isolation for you. Go to where help is needed. Confront the virus in its natural habitat."

"What do you think of me?" she asked. As I contemplated the answer, I noticed that other men were staring at her.

"You're better looking than I am," I replied. "And I want to see you again."



The following Friday, we met at Chez Michele, an upscale French bistro in Tribeca. I got there early and asked for a glass of merlot, which I drank quickly. Then, I requested another. I was clad in pressed khaki pants, a blue-striped shirt, and a navy blazer, and I assumed Erica would also show up well dressed. She arrived, moments later, in light washed-out blue jeans and a drab, gray sweatshirt with a hoodie. I felt a stab of insult. Then, I almost laughed out loud.

Suddenly, I wished I hadn't come. As she walked toward our table, I struggled to find just the right words to recapture the momentum of what I imagined to be my insolent charm from Mikonos. But seeing her scrambled my thoughts.

She sat down and glanced at me briefly, then turned her attention to her handbag, which she slung over the back of her chair. I braced myself for a short evening.

"You were mocking me the other night, weren't you?" she asked. I tried to establish eye contact, but her eyes darted away from mine, like repelling magnets.

Maybe she was unstable. That could actually improve my chances. I had a history of attracting peculiar women, a fate I attributed to being a blank slate on whom others could etch patterns of their choice. Just a few weeks earlier, I had dinner with a woman I met online, who informed me that her last date had touched her inappropriately. She told me she responded seductively, whispered into her date's ear, then bit down hard on his earlobe. "I tasted blood," she told me.

I stared at Erica. "You're not going to bite me, are you?"

"I try to keep my options open," she said. She didn't smile, but neither was she thrown off guard. I wanted to make her laugh. I drank some of my wine.

"You drink a lot," she said.

"I'm being rude," I said. "Would you like some?"

"I try not to drink. It interferes with ... everything." I studied her for a moment.

"Why are you here?" I asked.

"Have you had too much already?" she asked, looking at my glass.

I relaxed. This would end soon.

"You didn't answer my question," I said.

"Why are you here?" she asked.

"That's easy. You're gorgeous. I'm not. And you're troubled in some way I can't define. And you're interested in me, which doesn't speak well for your judgment. I like women with bad judgment."

Erica bit her lip. Was she trying not to smile?

"Where are you from?" I asked.


I laughed. "Cleveland, the birthplace of exotic creatures, of beautiful women."

"Detroit without the charm," she said.

"So, you're on a mission, right? You go to places like Mikonos to save bland professionals from lives of despair, and you chose me the other night."

I reached for the merlot, but she reached out and grabbed my arm, gently guiding me away from the glass. Perhaps the gesture was borne more of condescension than intimacy, but I caught my breath all the same. She didn't release her grip.


Excerpted from "The Reluctant Healer"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Andrew Himmel.
Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

1: Flight,
2: Fire,
3: Frequency and Vibration,
4: Moist,
5: A Federal Agency,
6: The Levitation of Debris,
7: On a Path,
8: The Requirement of Wrinkles,
9: The Myth of Intelligence,
10: Mousserende,
11: The King of the Mississippi,
12: Street Practice,
13: One Portion of Kabbalah,
14: The Great Harmonic Alignment,
15: Dangling Hands,
16: The Road to Vermont,
17: The Importance of Presence,
18: Computation,
19: Multitasking,
20: Sitting In,
21: Scattered Pages,
22: White Frogs,
23: The Golden Cuffs,
24: The Line Traversed,
25: A Question of Sanity,
26: A Striking Development,
27: The Vanishing Point,
28: The Mountain Wizard,
29: Twisting,
30: Awakening,
31: Duality,
32: Gone,
33: Logistics,
34: The Decline before the Fall,
35: Fragility,
36: Three out of Four,
37: The Point of Return,
38: Crossed,
39: Above the Rim,
40: Circling,
41: The Divide,
42: Grounded,
Decision and Order,
Epilogue: The Spirit of Liberty,
Reader's Guide,
Author Q&A,
About the Author,

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