Claire Boehning is about to launch her medical career when she meets Addison, a biochemist with blazing genius and big dreams. But a complicated pregnancy deflects Claire’s professional path and she is forced to drop out of her residency. A few years later, Addison invents a simple blood test to diagnose ovarian cancer, and his biotech start-up lands a fortune. Overnight the Boehnings are catapulted into a financial and social tier they had never anticipated or sought, and over time they grow unconsciously complacent with wealth and security: they move into a gracious Seattle home and buy an old ranch in the high desert mountains of eastern Washington; Claire drifts away from medicine to become a full time wife and mother.
Then Addison gambles everything on a cutting edge cancer drug and the studies go awry under clouded circumstances. With their comfortable life swept away, Claire and her daughter Jory move to the dilapidated ranch house in rural Hallum, where Claire has to resurrect her medical skills and find a job until Addison can salvage his discredited lab. Her only offer for employment comes from a struggling public health clinic—a world away from the medical career Claire had once envisioned. But life in Hallum brings Claire more than a second chance at medicine when she meets Miguela, a bright Nicaraguan immigrant, an orphan of the contra war, who has come to the United States with a secret quest to find the family she has lost. As their friendship develops, a new mystery unfolds that threatens to destroy Claire’s stressed family and forces her to question what it truly means to heal.
The Seattle Times
“…a smart second novel….Cassella excels at dialogue and creating distinctly colorful minor characters…Cassella's writing about medical care and ethics, pharmaceutical drug development and the conditions of migrant workers' lives is moving and sophisticated; let's hope this doctor has more stories to tell.”
"‘Healer’ is a story of steadfastness in the face of quiet desperation, of staying afloat in a sea of uncertainty simply because there is no other choice. Anesthesiologist Carol Cassella draws on both her professional and personal knowledge to propel the story of a family whose lives are on the ropes….Cassella writes like a dream, with language that is lyrical and direct without being sparse. When she writes of Claire's worry, and struggles to find a way forward given the hand life has dealt, it's personal.… this is where "Healer" finds its resonance. Claire must find her way through changed economics, a story many will find familiar….And Claire's search for a new path is a redemptive journey, for Claire and for the reader.”
"Carol Cassella provides her engrossing second novel, Healer, with the kind of issues over trust that any couple could have. Cassella is especially good at conveying all the frustration, embarrassment and disappointment that Claire feels as she tries to settle into a temporary life in Hallam. Her medical background obviously helped with her first novel, Oxygen, and it helps again as she describes Claire's halting attempts to make her way into the medical community of this resort town.”
“‘Healer’ has much to recommend it. Claire and Addison's relationship is rocked, not by infidelity, but by their attitudes toward money. It's a theme rarely explored in fiction these days, even as many people with lavish lifestyles find themselves in trouble with their mortgages. Cassella paints a clear picture of Hallum and its surroundings. Supporting characters, particularly in the medical clinic, shine. Cassella, a working anesthesiologist, has a keen ear and uses it to great effect to create realistic situations in which to place a nerve-racked Claire.”
“Claire Boehning faces a bleak future when her privileged life ends abruptly in Cassella's second novel (after Oxygen). Cassella (a real-life doctor) takes a hard look at a faulty health-care system to illustrate the power of money and class in this timely and multifaceted novel.”
Garth Stein, New York Times bestselling author of Racing in the Rain
“It's tough to follow a spectacular debut like Oxygen, Carol Cassella’s striking first novel, with an even stronger second novel, but she’s done it with Healer. There are no blatant good guys and bad guys in Healer, no simple blacks and whites. Cassella's characters come in myriad shades of gray that make up the complex psyche of all human beings. And when money competes with good intentions, Cassella doesn't shy away from negotiating the murky ethical areas where profit and altruism collide, weaving questions of immigration, health care, and the power of big pharma into a page turning drama. I highly recommend this compelling new book by this remarkable author.”
Erin Hilderbrand, New York Times bestselling author of The Castaways
"Cassella's book is brilliant on all fronts. It is one of the most gripping and ingeniously crafted novels I have read this year."
Erica Bauermeister, Author of The School of Essential Ingredients
"A deeply powerful story about the intricate intersection of marriage, motherhood and career. Clear-eyed and compassionate, Carol Cassella takes her readers on the roller-coaster ride of a marriage and family shaken by financial upheaval. "
"In her second novel, HEALER, Carol Cassella draws upon her own medical background to lend credence to the fast-paced, emotionally moving story of family relationships and sacrifices. It is easy to admire Cassella's depiction of the strength of her characters Claire and Miguela, both mothers trying to do their best for their daughters. It is equally easy to be disgusted by the actions and selfishness of Addison and Jory, who seem concerned only with getting their worldly possessions back. Cassella's creative storytelling makes HEALER a novel that is a pleasure to read.”
Mostly Fiction Book Reviews
“Cassella is a nuanced writer who skillfully sets up each scene and develops her characters and engrossing plot with care. We cannot help but sympathize with the overwhelmed protagonist, for whom no quick fix is on the horizon. Cassella sensitively explores the forces that keep families together and the misfortunes that can drive them apart. . . . With her strong second novel, Carol Cassella proves that her debut effort, the compelling Oxygen, was no fluke.”