Novels That Heal

Sometimes I feel uncomfortable writing a post that might oversimplify any process of emotional or spiritual healing, or patronize readers with advice. We’re all on our own intricate path through life. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. Aside from a handful of books I like to recommend for understanding trauma and PTSD, when someone asks me for reading suggestions, I often think of novels. 

I recently read The Child Finder, by Rene Denfeld. This book had me in tears on the airplane. It’s about a child who’s gone missing in the Skookum National Forest. She starts to love and depend on the person she fears. As you read about her abductor, you can’t help but feel for him at times. The child finder, an intuitive private investigator working on missing children cases, spends her life rescuing other children while she herself fears being found—being loved as she is. It’s a hopeful story that deals with trauma and internalized shame in an honest and moving way. I think a good story holds power, especially when it’s written with as much compassion and understanding as this one. 

Another novel that stuck with me is Alice Hoffman’s Faithful. This novel also deals with shame. It’s about a woman who lost her friend in a car accident when they were both teenagers, and she survived but doesn’t believe she deserves her life. She rescues neglected dogs and through the help of people who care about her, one of whom sends anonymous postcards telling her to “do something” or “save something,” she learns to rescue herself.

I find it difficult to summarize novels (I’ve had a hard time trying to summarize my own!) but I thought these were worth mentioning. In a writing class I learned that it’s the specific that makes something universal. We relate to all the nuanced complexities of a character’s struggle, even if it doesn’t exactly match our own experience, because the humanity resonates.