The Healing

Jones, Gayl

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell
  • Date of entry: Apr-11-2000
  • Last revised: Dec-12-2006


Harlan Jane Eagleton, a faith healer, tells the story of her evolution from being a rock star's manager and beautician into healing. She travels from tank town to tank town ("on account of them water tanks") performing faith healings. The novel begins at the end of the story and loops forward to where her story begins, Harlan Jane's first faith healing.

In the process, readers are given accounts of her life as manager of the rock star, her love affair with a paranoid German lover, and her former husband, a medical anthropologist who travels and studies in Africa. We hear about Harlan Jane also from Nicholas, her assistant, who sometimes narrates what happens at the healings.


Jones's novel tells tales of healings from all kinds of distress: physical attacks and treachery, silence, love, and, of course, physical ailments of all stripes. Nicholas says of Harlan Jane's first healing, "Can't nobody explain it. I ain't met nobody that can explain that first healing" and goes on to explain about how many different types of magazines have written about her healing power (scientific, tabloid, "slick" German and American magazines) but that no one can really explain what happens.

The novel complicates such notions of "truth" and "witness," raising the question of certainty in any kind of healing. It is an amazing text, full of cultural references and written with a great deal of humor as well as Jones's usual intensity. I think this book would be particularly useful in a class that explores epistemology and truth as issues in the practice of medicine.



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