“Words are a pretext. It is the inner bond that draws one person to another, not words.” – Rumi
Author Ann W. Jarvie’snovel ‘The Soul Retrieval’ tells the story of Henrietta Clayborn and her tryst with love, loss, healing and new beginnings. Set in the 1950’s between a small town in South Carolina and a Native American reservation in New Mexico, it follows the story of Henrietta and her physician husband Jeff who’s researching cases of spontaneous remission found among the locals on the reservation. While the good doctor tries to help the tribal community and research their spirit medicine in the process, there are dissenting groups within the white community as well as the tribe’s members who aren’t happy with the doctor’s meddling presence. Meanwhile Henrietta has a deep dark secret that has scarred her soul but in the company of a sage Apache woman Altie and her eccentric mystic husband Joe, she finds the courage to get over her past and the many hurdles she faces in her present.
This suspenseful, beautifully written novel focuses on the lives of an American family of the 50’s temporarily living on a Native American reservation. While most books with this premise tell stories of battles and bravado, very rarely do they focus on the personal lives of the participants, of the human drama involved, like this one. Here we get to know and care about a young family as they struggle to survive and exist within their own southern white culture and the vastly different traditions of Native Americans. The two cultures do not easily coexist, yet they come to rely on each other because of the medicinal knowledge and cures available to each side.
And while we are talking about this book it would be a shame not to mention its wonderful cast of characters on whose shoulders this novel achieves its glory. Sure the story is original, suspenseful and one of a kind. The treatment of plot offers novelty and ingenuity, but it’s the characters that take it to a whole new level. Henrietta is the soul and star of this novel. She is traumatized and yet has the capacity to open herself to the forbidden and search for healing truths. She is vulnerable and yet resolutely strong when fate demands it of her. Henrietta behaves within the boundaries a 1950’s society has permitted for a woman but she isn’t afraid to break the same shackles when needed.
Going head to head with her and sometimes quite literally too is Dr. Colonel who’s Henrietta’s father-in-law. He is the quintessential patriarchal macho man who feels everyone else must bow down before him and serve his every whim and fancy. Now this was a character the author could have gone overboard with and made a caricature of but she puts in the right amount of menacing and evil and he appears as a highly dislikeable man but a real person nonetheless. Joe and Altie are her native friends and the ones who help her through her life transition. Joe speaks a lot through metaphors and parables, most of which contain hidden meaning and others just witty quips. He is a bit of everything, taking the good aspects of different cultures, traditions and institutions. Altie is another strong woman like Henrietta and the strong bond they share automatically transforms into a warm friendship.
Even though it’s a big book, coming to around 400+ pages, you will never be put off by its size. Especially the last 100-150 pages wiz by pretty quickly as the story picks up its intensity and important events start happening one after the other. A compelling storyline and a great cast of characters ensure this novel’s longevity in your mind long after you are done reading it.
Paperback: 434 pages
Publisher: JazzComm Publishing; 1 edition (March 23, 2015)