One young woman, a newly qualified teacher, trying her best to carve a life for herself, trying to figure out a way to live with her past traumas and experiences. A student, a confident young man, popular and well respected, with his own secret that he’s trying to cope with. Despite outside forces trying to keep them apart, they find themselves drawn together again and again. But is either one of them strong enough, and able enough, to save the other, and prove that love is possible even in the face of terrible trauma?
Firstly, I must give a warning before I continue – this book does contain sexual abuse, stalking, and mentions of violence and self harm, so if any of those are triggers for you, then this book may not be for you. It is integral to the plot of the book, and for forming the characters’ backstories, it is not gratuitous, but may still be upsetting / triggering to some readers. The following post will be my review of the book, I completely understand if some people can’t continue, but for those who can, I hope you enjoy.
‘Healer Of My Heart’ is the second published novel of Sheila Turner Johnston, and it is just as gripping and haunting as her first novel, ‘Maker Of Footprints’.
It follows the main character, Robyn, a young, newly qualified teacher, as she tries to navigate life after the death of her father, figures out working in her new position, and tries to assert her independence against her mother, and her overbearing and controlling friends. She is also trying to deal with the almost obsessive interest of a new work colleague, whilst constantly being haunted by memories of her abusive past.
Robyn is an intriguing character – she has been through so much in her life, and has tried to build walls around herself to protect herself. She tries to be cold, and unwelcoming, and keeps her guard up as much as possible – and while this could make her come across as an unlikable character, she’s written so well that it actually does the opposite. I found myself feeling protective of her, and hoping so much that she would be able to open herself up to love, and to trust someone. I also found myself internally screaming at times for her to get away from her so called friends – I found them infuriating to read, especially Neil, as I found him to be so manipulating and controlling, and so bad for her.
David’s character – the young student who Robyn meets while teaching – is a breath of fresh air compared to some of the other people in Robyn’s life. He doesn’t try to control her, or rush her into anything, he is content to let her be herself, and watching as she opened up to him was so engaging. It was easy to forget sometimes how young the character was, because he was so mature and caring.
But David is hiding his own secret past, a secret that he is trying to atone for constantly. A childhood mistake that haunts him daily, and that he, and his family, just can’t seem to move past. Learning about his past, and seeing him open to Robyn and be so vulnerable, was a heartbreaking moment, and it also really explained so much about his character.
What I really enjoyed about this novel is that it didn’t shy away from the gritty, hard to read (and I’m sure hard to write) topics. Topics such as sexual abuse, self harm etc are dark, and can make some readers uncomfortable, but they are very real topics, and they were handled and written about very respectfully and truthfully in this novel, and the story was all the better for it. Some of the characters in this story were also very hard to read – the character of Angus made me physically shudder a few times – again, a testament to how well written they are. You can tell that the author really knows her characters, as they are so real.
I love that this isn’t the typical sweeping love story, with grand gestures and overly romantic scenes – not that I’m opposed to those on occasion – it’s a slow burn, as both characters grow to know each other, and to trust each other. Only when that love is almost lost do they realise just how much they mean to each other. They fall in love with each other as we fall in love with them, and we get to join them, and root for them, every step of the way.
This novel was a real treat to read. It was gripping, and absorbing, heartbreaking and uplifting, and it gave hope that even after tragedy, and pain and trauma, there is still friendship, and laughter, and love, and most importantly, life.
I would most definitely recommend this novel.
*Thanks to Sheila Turner Johnston for gifting me a copy of ‘Healer Of My Heart in exchange for an honest review.