The Healing Party

A novel about the mother, the father and the Holy Ghost.
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Image: The Healing Party courtesy of Black Inc.

Natasha receives a fateful call from her sister; their mother is dying from cancer. This is where The Healing Party begins – we are ​quickly transprted from the vastness of Darwin to Natasha’s cramped childhood home.

Eight years away from her family and the suffocating religious environment of Natasha’s upbringing is exactly where she left it. Having never measured up to her father’s expectations, Natasha is determined to care for her mother, Irene, and learn more about the woman that always played the steely yet wounded ornament to her father’s outlandish ways. 

Natasha’s father, Paul Chan, is a flamboyant artist and strong follower of the Charismatic Movement within Pentecostal Christianity. At prayer with his Priest and another devoted follower, a vision occurs: Natasha’s mother, Irene, will be healed by Jesus. They must celebrate Irene’s miraculous recovery and hold a party to show the Lord’s true powers of healing. A healing party.

Paul Chan has embraced the faith as a salvation and as cloak to his sins. Often speaking in tongues Paul brings both repulsion and intrigue, he claims that ‘many women find me attractive. I am not a young, handsome man. I am not slim and strong. You know what it is? It is my intensity they find attractive’.

For a debut novelist, Micheline Lee crafts her characters with delicacy and treats each one with special care. Irene is a strong loving mother and yet closed off from her children; Natasha’s sisters: Maria (the fanatical), Patsy (often shy) and Anita (the dominant eldest daughter) are all coloured so vividly we are reminded that everyone is affected by their environment. No one goes unscathed.

Lee pays extra attention to the ever-present Jesus. Much like a god from ancient Greece, Christ is brought to life through the intense dedication of the main characters: ‘Jesus knocks on our door, but he will not let himself in. Only you can let him in.’

Lee’s pace is beautiful, if you are patient. Her words reveal more than what is said. ‘She walked down the aisle and joined the yearning multitude.’ Lee’s words flow like a smooth stream; her imagery sings with a lyrical cadence. ‘At that moment a fragrance of oranges was in the air and the sky outside seemed suffused with purple light.’

The first-person point of view through Natasha’s often-confused lens gives the reader room to ponder. Her internal turmoil allows the reader to question their own ideas on the spirit and the continual struggle that is forgiveness.

Though it may feel like a slow build to the main event, what you learn along the way will shock and make you feel. And that is what a novel like this aims for and delivers.

Through Natasha’s eyes we see the invisible threads of love that hold families together and the emotional shackles that can weigh them down. The Healing Party is an intense debut novel about love in all its forms and fragments.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The Healing Party by Micheline Lee
Imprint: Black Inc.
Publish date: June 2016
ISBN: 9781863958431
Format: Paperback​