The Healer’s Secret (The Innocenti Saga Book 1)

by Helen Pryke


Jennifer has lost everything: her husband, her job, her chance to have children. She comforts herself with alcohol, the more the better. To save her daughter, Jennifer’s mother convinces her to go to Italy, stay in her great-grandmother’s cottage, and find herself. Jennifer’s time in Italy is a time of enlightenment. She finds herself surrounded by loving family, discovers the family’s healing garden, and learns of the secrets the family has kept for years.

Theme of the Book

The Healer’s Secret is a book of self-discovery and redemption. Although Ms. Pryke deals with difficult topics, the book is full of hope and the importance of family.

What I Liked About the Story

Dealing with difficult topics can be a real challenge for an author. In The Healer’s Secret, the reader will find alcoholism, infidelity, incest, infertility, murder, and spouse and child abuse. Fortunately for the reader, Ms. Pryke handles these topics with sensitivity and care. The book is not simply a condemnation of abusive men, but is a depiction of characters with weaknesses, strengths, and fears to overcome. Even the abusive Ernesto is handled well, with enough background to be able to understand, though not approve of, his actions.

At the beginning of the book, Jennifer is a character hard to like. She is uncommunicative, angry, and drowning in alcohol. As the story progresses, the reader watches as Jennifer faces her past problems and finds growth and redemption through the love and concern of her Italian family. She learns to accept her past behavior and to forgive herself. Connecting with her extended Italian family, especially with Mario, the brother of her grandmother, leads Jennifer to discover both the secrets that the family had hidden for many years and her own role in life.

The book is a combination of family saga, romance, and magic. This is not the magic of wizards casting spells, but the magic of discovery and love. Jennifer’s discovery of the garden and learning the herbal lore of the generations of healers before her mark the turning point in her life.

The characters are wonderfully written; the Italian countryside beautifully described; the themes sensitively treated.

What I Didn’t Like About the Story

The one weak point in the book for me was the character of Mark. It wasn’t so much that Mark was poorly written but that his role in the story seemed peripheral. Perhaps he was meant to be a recreation of Jennifer’s great-grandfather, Ernesto, but his role in the plot was relatively small. There had already been a number of examples of spousal abuse and infidelity so Mark’s actions lent little more to a well-developed theme. He certainly embodied all the negative traits of an abusive male which had been previously demonstrated by Ernesto.

Final Say

Ms. Pryke has done well to produce a book that treats sensitive topics in the context of personal growth. Jennifer’s redemption through connection with her family and its past is a model for living. Readers who appreciate family sagas, romance, and personal stories will truly enjoy The Healer’s Secret.

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