The Healing Party

Micheline Lee

 
The Healing Party
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The Healing Party

Micheline Lee

An electrifying debut novel about faith and lies, the spirit and the flesh.

When her mother is diagnosed with a terminal illness, Natasha returns to the home she fled many years before. But her father, a Charismatic Christian, has not changed: he is still the domineering yet magnetic man she ran from, and the family is still in his thrall. He comes home one night with astonishing news: he has received a message from God that his wife is to be healed, and they must hold a party to celebrate. As Natasha and her sisters prepare for the big event - and the miracle - she struggles to reconcile her family’s faith with her sense that they are pretending.

Review

The dysfunctional family is the foundation of so many great works of fiction – there is so much natural drama to draw upon in complicated relationships between parents and children, siblings, and tight knit communities. With her debut novel, The Healing Party, Micheline Lee breathes new life into the dysfunctional family narrative. Emotionally honest, at times funny and remarkably original, Lee’s novel paints a compelling portrait of a family grappling with their faith in the face of grief and conflict.

The Healing Party follows the Chans, originally from Hong Kong, who have migrated to Melbourne and become evangelical Christians. Natasha, one of the four Chan daughters, has been living in Darwin, estranged from the rest of the family. She returns home to Melbourne’s eastern suburbs to nurse her mother, Irene, who is dying from cancer. Doctors deem that Irene only has a few months to live, but Natasha’s father, Paul, a magnetic leader in their charismatic community, believes he has received a message from God promising that Irene will be healed. He plans to hold a ‘healing party’ so that their community can witness the miracle.

As the Chan family prepares for the party, tensions escalate, as does the narrative pace. Natasha finds herself caught between the comfort and unity offered by her family’s faith, and the sense that their belief may be an elaborate pretence. While spiritual herself, Natasha has significant doubts about the Chans’ blinkered assurance that Irene will be saved. These doubts are heightened by insights into her father’s abusive flaws. With Paul, Lee has created an unforgettable character, simultaneously charming and terrifyingly fanatical. Yet with Paul, as with every issue in the novel, you never feel judgement from Lee. Instead, she offers her readers an opportunity to think deeply about the issue of idealisation and the division we all face between who we are and who we aspire to be.

Lee is an exceptionally talented writer. Her dialogue jumps off the page, and her characters stayed with me long after I finished reading. This considered novel is full of empathy, and provides deep insight into the enormously complex issue of faith and conflicting beliefs within a loving family. An impressive, unique Australian debut.


Stella Charls is the marketing and events coordinator for Readings.

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