Joline, Ellie, and Tess, three women who’ve been friends since college, visit Ecuadorian shamans to try to cure Ellie’s cancer.
Joline, a single mom and New Age “life coach,” has given up her other clients to work with Bryce, a Silicon Valley businessman, on a planned retreat center where wealthy guests can consult the best shamans. Ellie, married to Joline’s brother David, is a lawyer-turned–stay-at-home mom who lost a lung to cancer and now has six months to live. She’s kept secret her recent affair with her first love, Gavin. Tess, a self-described “lone wolf,” is CEO of a biotechnology company that is behind on drug trials key to the company’s future. When she unpacks in Ecuador, she finds a proposal letter and ring from Parker, whom she’s recently reunited with after a long breakup. The women spend a week taking part in healing ceremonies for Ellie and working out their issues: Joline’s misgivings about Bryce’s plans, which could destroy her friend Mama Rosita’s mountain community; Ellie’s guilt and fear; and Tess’ unresolved grief for her long-dead mother and indecision about Parker. The descriptions of the healings are vivid, especially one involving a shaman who spits cologne at the women, another that includes guinea pigs, and a third that requires drinking hallucinogenic ayahuasca. Some details seem unlikely—that Ellie, in her condition, could travel to a remote place at high elevation, for example, or that Gavin tracks down which tiny village they’re visiting. Bryce, who charges around making snap decisions, and Joline, who says “nature will support” whenever anyone doubts her beliefs, are both a little typecast in this imperfect, saccharine tale.
Readers who like stories about women’s friendship with some romance, an exotic locale, and plenty of tears might enjoy Sherbrooke's debut novel, but the pleasure is as fleeting as ceremonial smoke.