Review – The Healing of Natalie Curtis – biography

Kirkpatrick, Jane. The Healing of Natalie Curtis. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2021. 

Summary from publisher

Classically trained pianist and singer Natalie Curtis isolated herself for five years after a breakdown just before she was to debut with the New York Philharmonic. Guilt-ridden and songless, Natalie can’t seem to recapture the joy music once brought her. In 1902, her brother invites her to join him in the West to search for healing. What she finds are songs she’d never before encountered–the haunting melodies, rhythms, and stories of Native Americans.

But their music is under attack. The US government’s Code of Offenses prohibits American’s indigenous people from singing, dancing, or speaking their own languages as the powers that be insist on assimilation. Natalie makes it her mission not only to document these songs before they disappear but to appeal to President Teddy Roosevelt himself, who is the only man with the power to repeal the unjust law. Will she succeed and step into a new song . . . and a new future?

Award-winning author Jane Kirkpatrick weaves yet another lyrical tale based on a true story that will keep readers captivated to the very end.

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My Review

Having spent 20 years on the Navajo Reservation as a missionary, I am always interested in finding good fiction about the Native Americans. Because of my experiences there I especially look for accuracy and the way the native religions are treated. 

The Healing of Natalie Curtis could be called a fictionalized biography. Jane Kirkpatrick based the book on the life of Natalie Curtis. I appreciated her author’s note at the end which helps readers decide fact from fiction. There is also a glossary which can help readers with unfamiliar words. A set of discussion questions also lends itself for The Healing of Natalie Curtis being used in a book group

I had a couple of concerns while reading the story. Some of the travel sequences do not make sense. In one chapter Natalie and George travel to Fort Defiance, AZ to visit the Keam Canyon School. Keams Canyon is over 60 miles away from Fort Defiance and I don’t think the school was ever located in Fort Defiance. Having lived in the area myself, I was often confused by the sequence of locations as George and Natalie traveled between two places – the place names indicated a lot of back and forth travel. Also the Glossary places Old Oraibi in New Mexico – Oraibi is about 100 miles into Arizona from the New Mexico/Arizona border. My final concern is the apparent syncretism of Natalie – that the Hopi worshipped the same God  – just with a different name and in a different way. This is something the Native Christians I know are very careful to avoid.

While I did enjoy the story and admire Natalie Curtis and the work she did, I cannot recommend The Healing of Natalie Curtis for a K-12 Christian school library because of my concerns. I received a complimentary copy of The Healing of Natalie Curtis. This is my honest review.

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