A realistic fantasy novel set in Vietnam during the ill fated war against communism. With a touch of the magical/paranormal it shows a realistic, difficult, and heartbreaking picture of Vietnam from the perspective of a female veteran of the war.
About: Kitty, the main character, is a twenty-something nurse from the Mid West who decides to go to Vietnam to help in the war efforts, since her life at home in the US is not working out as she had hoped. Within the relative safety of the American base she experiences Vietnam in a privileged bubble.
As she works in the hospital caring for the wounded and civilians, she ultimately ends up relating to the natives on a more intimate basis than the soldiers. This is due to the nature of her job and her heart, where US soldiers are moved in and out of the hospitals at a quick rate yet those who are local stay. This gives Kitty time to get attached to many of the Vietnamese injured.
This is where the speculative comes into play; on his death a local holy man and healer gifts Kitty with an object which will allow her to accelerate the healing process of the sick and injured. Of course it will be needed in some very harrowing and gut-wrenching situations as the story progresses.
Thoughts: Kitty tells her story in the first person, speaking as a nurse in the Army would, with a voice that is down to earth and casual. Through her voice we see that humanness is not granted to just an individual country or race, and we look beyond the horrific loss of human life to the cultural and ecological losses as well. Below is one quote where the author describes Vietnam and its incredible beauty. Here Kitty is taking a helicopter ride over the countryside:
….. We flew over fishnet-strung seas, lush green mountains fading to purple in the distance, golden rice paddies, and aquamarine waters. Gauzy mists puffed up beneath us, veiling the valleys. It was still extraordinarily beautiful. But even from the air the beauty was marred by the bomb craters pitting its surface, like Never-Never Land with smallpox scars. I was used to thinking of Vietnam as ugly, hot, smelly, dirty. It had never dawned on me that the Rice Bowl of the East, as they called it in social studies, would have to be lush, that a country that was once a resort area for the French would of course be lovely. What a crying shame to hold a war here.
From the quote above we see another casualty of war.
The Healer’s War is an incredible novel which shows the horrors and senselessness of war within the exotic beauty of Vietnam; its natives are very much like ourselves, and we realize that within the context of war atrocities inevitably occur on both sides. In my opinion Elizabeth Ann Scarborough definitely deserved to win the Nebula for this book in 1989. It is a realistic picture of the war with a bit of light fantasy, and is recommended for those who do not generally read fantasy and very highly recommended for those who do. It is rated as at 4.5 stars.
Link to find out more about the author, her books, and an article from New Scientist which talks about auras and if they actually exist - which are a key element of this novel.
This book will be include in a number of challenges ~ War Across the Generations, Mind Voyages, The Basics, New Author, Speculative Fiction, and Feel My Sorrow.
Thanks for reading!