Book Review: The Healer by Sabrina Furminger

I am always powerless.

Ivy’s palms burned scalding hot. Street lamp after street lamp burnt out along the empty street. She ground her palms against Joji’s face. Her fingers dug into his right eye. Crackling electricity sprang from her palms. The stench of burning flesh reached her nose. Joji shrieked, tumbled backwards, and buried his scorched face in his hands.

~ Excerpt from The Healer by Sabrina Furminger (from her website).

I began Sabrina’s book The Healer before I started NaNoWriMo in November. I had to put it aside while I spent my free time trying to write my own 50,000 word novel, leaving me too exhausted pumping out words to do anything else. I promptly picked it up at the end of the month, finishing it in one day. The Healer is a book with characters so memorable, that even though I stopped reading it for a month, diving into my own characters, I knew exactly who they were when I returned, without having to go back several pages.

Sabrina classifies The Healer as sci-fi chick-lit, and the book truly is a mix of those genres. Science fiction is a genre I prefer when I can relate to it, when there is something novel about everyday life. The Healer subverts Vancouver, both in Ivy Merchuk’s gift, and in what happens when someone discovers her gift.

I have read far more chick-lit and romance novels than I care to admit, and the romance is a key component to both Ivy Merchuk’s and Victor Morgan’s growth as characters. When combining genres, a novel can feel almost bi-polar, as the writer draws from both sides. In romance and chick-lit books, the love story is peppered with key moments that trigger the emotional journey of the main characters, but the developing love between characters is central. In other genres, its secondary. Often that’s why the “love-story” component feels so rushed in genre books, making them almost unbelievable. However it’s also what draws a reader in to fight on behalf of the characters, because a love-story gives them something to fight for.  While Sabrina’s book brings more into the love story, and creates a more realistic internal journey for Ivy, at certain points the developing love between Ivy and Victor slows down the plot.

Finally despite the slightly longer denouement at the end of the story, finally explaining Ivy’s gift, I am still left with questions, choices the author made. I won’t post them here, because some of them are specific and would give away the plot to any new readers. I think this book is worth passing on to readers to discover for themselves. Sabrina has created an interesting and engaging Vancouver underground with surprising twists, and when I finished the book, I was extremely satisfied. I really appreciate the fact that Sabrina explores the various points of view surrounding Ivy’s gift. The best horror, sci-fi and fantasy books do this about whatever topic they engage. I look forward to her next book.

A caveat: Sabrina and I have been good friends since high school, where we edited each other’s essays in our English classes. It was a pleasure to read the book, knowing the personal references she drew, and seeing how she incorporated them into her novel.