A new novel by Montana author Jan Elpel is centered on Carrie Tarynton, an intuitive healer who plies her trade in Butte during the 1870s. It’s set in the sliver of time between mining for gold and mining for copper and just before the Nez Perce War.
The intersection of fellow healers and the conflict with western medicine provides an analogy to the conflict between mining interests and ranchers, and settlers and Indians. Elpel portrays vivid images of pristine waters and vistas that “fade to hazy violet in the clarity of mid-day sun.”
Through the trials of her fictional characters, she weaves a story of the early effects of mining on the land and the people – issues we are still dealing with today.
The healers of the title – whether Chinese, Shoshoni, Nez Perce or Irish – are contrasted with those college-trained in western medicine. The intuitives concentrate on healing both the minds and bodies of humans (as well as a special horse). Along the way they sometimes heal themselves and their relationships.
I was moved by her observation that the book’s healers are part of “the larger universe of women yearning for peace and healing for all.”
This sequel to Berrigan’s Ride is the second historical novel by Elpel, who leaves us two pages of a selected bibliography and the pithy observations and quaint recipes of Prudence B Saur, M.D. of the era. She is careful to accept “no responsibility for the treatments or uses.”
– LK Willis