The narrator of The Laying on of Hands is an African American woman who grew up an only child, the daughter and granddaughter of "healers" - people blessed with the power of healing others of their illnesses through the laying on of hands. Miss Muchie (Charlotte) is the main character, and she tells her story starting from her childhood, when her grandmother, Tyler Mama, teaches her the art of being a healer. The use of herbs is also part of this practice, but one also has to be born with the gift of healing, as Tyler Mama and Muchie's father were.
Miss Muchie was born in Buccatunna, Mississippi, in the early 1900s, with slavery more than just a memory to Black Americans living in the South. The story begins there, detailing her experiences as a young girl with the power of healing, mostly with helping her grandmother deliver babies. She experiences a lot of things that girls her age are not exposed to, but Muchie is strong enough to handle it. Eventually, Muchie is delivering babies on her own.
Muchie has the power of the laying on of hands, but she is not aware of it when it happens. Several times she has helped “heal” someone who is in pain or has been injured, and as if a miracle has occurred, his or her injuries are no more. As she grows older, she soon discovers that she does not always have control over this gift, a fact that causes her more misery and heartache, and she often comes close to losing her faith in God.
Before Muchie graduates high school, several ministers arrive in town, accompanied by two educated Black men. This group of people is there to help educate the children and to build a new school. One of the Black men is Edward Preston, also known to close friends as Teddy. Muchie develops a huge crush on him, and despite her relative young age (Teddy is in his twenties), she falls in love with him. Her feelings are eventually reciprocated. He becomes a pivotal figure in Muchie's life, and eventually the two of them (against her parents’ wishes) seek out their lives together in Mobile, Alabama, where Teddy knows some people who can help them start a life together in wedded bliss.
Her story proceeds to take the reader through their happy marriage and the births of their four children. But when tragedy strikes more than once, she is almost ready to give up. With the help of friends and family, Muchie manages to keep on going and finds a reason to live despite all she has been through.
Throughout the story is the background of the ending of slavery, the Depression, and finally WWI and WWII. But the core focus is Muchie and what she learns about herself after many years of living for the present while still clinging to a past that is only filled with memories. Muchie is a role model, a woman who fights to keep her dignity and to keep her family fed and clothed.
This was a book I highly enjoyed, written in such a way that I felt close to the main character and could easily see her in my mind. A Laying on of Hands is Brenda Rhodes Miller’s very inspirational story of a woman who makes a life for herself and her family during a time in our country’s history when it is not easy being a woman living on her own, and on top of it being black. It is also a story of one woman’s faith in God and her trials throughout her life as she is tested. This book is recommended to those who enjoy historical fiction, but also to those who enjoy books that are inspirational and motivational, to those who have suffered major hardships and losses in their lives.