The New York Times bestselling author of Wench returns to the Civil War era to explore the next chapter of history—the trauma of the War and the end of slavery—in this powerful story of love and healing about three people who struggle to overcome the pain of the past and define their own future.
The Civil War has ended, and Madge, Sadie, and Hemp have each come to Chicago in search of a new life.
Born with magical hands, Madge has the power to discern others’ suffering, but she cannot heal her own damaged heart. To mend herself and help those in need, she must return to Tennessee to face the women healers who rejected her as a child.
Sadie can commune with the dead, but until she makes peace with her father, she, too, cannot fully engage her gift.
Searching for his missing family, Hemp arrives in this northern city that shimmers with possibility. But redemption cannot be possible until he is reunited with those taken from him.
In the bitter aftermath of a terrible, bloody war, as a divided nation tries to come together once again, Madge, Sadie, and Hemp will be caught up in a desperate, unexpected battle for survival in a community desperate to lay the pain of the past to rest.
Beautiful in its historical atmosphere and emotional depth, Balm is a stirring novel of love, loss, hope, and reconciliation set during one of the most critical periods in American history.
“It would take months to unpack this foreign land…”
Balm, the second novel by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, interweaves the stories of Sadie, Madge, and Hemp, travelers who have made their solitary way to Chicago from their homes—and the lives they are trying to escape—in the post-Civil War South. Sadie, not entirely disappointed to have been widowed as a bride, discovers in her departed husband’s home both the restless spirit of a Union soldier killed at Shiloh and her own ability to communicate with the dead. Madge, a freewoman and healer neglected as a child, discovers in Sadie a restless woman in need of a cure that goes beyond herbs. Hemp, a freed slave searching for the wife who had been taken from him years before, in chains, discovers in Madge the possibility of solace. But before any of them can fully unpack themselves in this foreign land, they must...
An interesting story set in post-Civil War America, highlighting the difficult adjustments to be made by newly freed blacks, and blacks that were already free before the war, including an emphasis on the role of women - both black and white - in a world of missing, dead and wounded men. The supernatural aspects of the story add another dimension, giving the author more liberty to convince the reader of her insights into the minds of all her characters. I enjoyed the story and the writing, for the most part. One negative: Sometimes I detected a strain to achieve a "literary" tone to the writing which wasn't necessary. When the writing was relaxed and not straining thus, it was much more enjoyable to read. Kudos to Ms. Perkins-Valdez for tackling big, hairy topics with grace and frequently beauty.
I have not quite finished this book as I am reading it slowly in order to savor the wonderful stories in Balm. It is an unusual book that is full of thought provoking things. I am enjoying it a lot. The characters are quite interesting especially with their odd and strange gifts. I have some clear visual pictures of the setting and I think that the writer has done a wonderful job with some difficult periods of history. This is a book that I will keep for myself and will think about it in the future. Most likely I will read it again which is something that I don't do very often. That is one of my highest compliments.
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