A first novel with a provocative idea—the price paid for possessing healing powers—turns into an overfamiliar, plot-worn love story with a small-town setting.
In rural North Carolina during the late 1950s and early ’60s, faith is strong, church attendance high, and the people talk “country” because that’s what’s expected of them, especially by novelists intent on turning them into stereotypes. Protagonist Maggie Davidson is a member of that equally overexposed group, three generations of women learning to survive despite their bigoted and jealous neighbors. Maggie lives on the family farm with her mother, Lily, who was abandoned years ago by Maggie’s sweet-talking, no-good father, and with Granny, who still farms the spread and keeps everyone in line with tough love and homespun wisdom (“You can think yourself right into a corner if you try hard enough”). Maggie’s story begins on the Sunday when, as a ten-year-old, she hears God speak to her. Not only is God a woman, but shortly thereafter Maggie heals a boy’s finger. Other miraculous cures follow over the years, and Maggie is soon beset with people pleading for her services. When Maggie is in her late teens, a feature article about her in Life magazine brings handsome Princeton theological student Alex Barrons to town. He’s writing a thesis on modern-day mystics. The two soon fall in love, of course, but her mother’s experiences have made Maggie cautious and reluctant to commit. Then her gift fails her when Lily suffers two strokes and has to undergo surgery. As she decides what to do with her life and with Alex, schematic misunderstandings and separations supplant the more intriguing questions about God and Her gift to Maggie.
Sluggish and predictable.