Healing Maddie Brees is the debut novel from Rebecca Brewster Stevenson. It is published by Light Messages Publishing and is due for release September 2016. I received my ARC from NetGalley in return for an honest review.
‘A debut novel from a promising new voice in fiction, Healing Maddie Brees is the story of a marriage and the memories that pit themselves against it, of the uncanny power of the body in both disease and desire, and of whether true healing ever really happens.
Maddie Brees has been given bad news: She is seriously ill. But she also has an old friend, an ex-boyfriend who might be able to heal her. She was witness to Vincent Elander’s so-called miracles in the past. But that was a long time ago, a memory that she would rather stay buried.
Now she is happily married to Frank and mother of their three young boys. The religion of her past is behind her, along with any confidence she once had in it. With the onset of her cancer, the memories of Vincent won’t leave Maddie alone, and before long they are affecting everything else: her marriage, her husband, the things they thought they agreed on, the beliefs they thought they shared. Soon Frank, who was to be Maddie’s rock throughout her treatment, is finding fault-lines of his own. In this exquisitely written narrative, Stevenson explores the questions of honesty and commitment, of disease and isolation, and of the many shapes healing takes.
Rebecca Brewster Stevenson is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has a master’s degree from Duke University and has lived in Durham, North Carolina for over 20 years with her husband and three children. Healing Maddie Brees is her first novel.’ (Courtesy of NetGalley)
A truly unique novel, Healing Maddie Brees is not quite what I had expected. It is the story of one woman’s fight to survive using every bit of both mental & physical strength that she has. What surprised me so much about this book was the the very heavy referencing to the church and to God. I have never read a novel that was so influenced by religion.
Maddie was reared in a family that held it’s faith very strongly. She was lead to believe that the way of her church, Bethel Hills Church of Holiness, was the only way to live one’s life. Sin was not tolerated in any way. This way of life absorbed a lot of Maddie’s time growing up, attending numerous religious services every week. It is where she developed her close friendship with Justine and it is where she first encountered Vincent Elander
Vincent Elander is a memory from Maddie’s past. She is now married to Frank with three children. Their life is as she expected, until the day she discovers a lump in her breast. Her life changes beyond recognition as she attempts to overcome the shock of the news. Frank is at her side every step of the way but their relationship moves on to a different level. Maddie goes through the motions of the cancer treatment but old memories start to surface. She recalls her relationship with Vincent when she was a teenager and of her witnessing, of what she perceived, to be miracles. Now that she herself is ill, she wonders…what if???
Frank too, begins to think of Vincent. Up to this point Vincent’s healing ways had been stuff of dinner party banter, a story to tell. Now he too wonders…..what if????
Maddie tries to process what happened when she was younger and is not so sure of the reality of it. Her frustration at the time with Vincent’s attitude toward his ‘healing hands’ is very evident, as is her changing beliefs in God, in religion.
Maddie & Frank reach a crossroads in their lives. As much as Frank wants to be part of the journey with her, Maddie realises that it just can’t be so. She no longer sees her body in a sensual way. Her body has been prodded & poked, exposed for all to see in the medical environment.
It is as though they are both on different sides of the fence. Frank begins to feel isolated from Maddie which stirs up long forgotten memories of his past loves. He remembers with an uncomfortable pleasure, Francesca, the girl who broke his heart in college. Frank begins his own journey of discovery, independently of Maddie.
Throughout the novel, we are constantly drawn back to the religious upbringing of both Frank and Maddie. Frank is a Catholic and rediscovers his religion after college where he makes a very close friendship with the local priest Tim. Maddie, on the other hand, distances herself from her own strict Church and joins Frank, raising her children within the teachings of Catholicism. Both of them now question their faith and find it is tested throughout Maddie’s fight with cancer.
I have to admit, when reading Healing Maddie Brees, I did find some of the religious overtones in the book a bit heavy for me. In saying that it is a book that evokes thought & discussion. It has challenged me in how to rate it. I have been back & forth to Goodreads changing my rating from a 4* to a 3* and back again.
That’s why I eventually decided on 4*. It has caused me to think and isn’t that what all novels hope to achieve?
Please read it yourself when it becomes available and see what you think.
I would love to hear your views.
Til next time.