Book Review: The Healers by Henry Denker

The Healers- Henry Denker
The Healers- Henry Denker

The internet is painfully ignorant of this excellent piece of work by Henry Denker, more widely known for the famous radio series, The Greatest Story Ever Told.

Healers is a historical-medical-novel that covers the story of two people brought together by their calling to heal others. David Lindellhall, growing up in 19th century Vienna, finishes his medical education despite the anti-Semitism rife in the empire. In the novel, he also gets to works as an assistant to the medical pioneer Semmelweis and aiding him in conducting an experiment proving the cause of puerperal fever and helping him reinforce the practice of doctors disinfecting their hands before changing patients.  He participates in a student revolutionary movement which changes everything for him and he has to escape to America.  Though his training under Semmelweis is a great asset, he’s dreadfully afraid of performing surgery because he had failed it at once, under an emergency.

Meanwhile in the United States, Mary Sinclair becomes one of the first students of the Philadelphia Female Medical School,  and goes on to attend the Ecole de Medicine of Paris, as the only female student there.  She was one of those rare women who were studying medicine to become doctors, and not a nurse. Her rebellion against her society invites her much unwanted attention and slander, but she shows strength and nerve that will be her carry her on through a tumultuous life ahead.

Returning to the States, she meets David in a Manhattan anti-slavery riot and they are both appointed to Jews Hospital where their attraction for each other grows and they get married, despite opposition from Mary’s family. To her father’s horror she gets drawn to Judaism and converts.  What follows is the journey of two noble souls, prone as much as human soul is to vices and struggling against them, united in their aim to heal people.

Having read only this book by Denker, I cannot say whether he’s an exceptional writer and storyteller, but I can vouch for the power of this book. Set in precarious times, he brings out two characters whose strength and courage to do the right thing supersedes everything. He shows us two human beings, with all their foibles and fallacies, tiding over obstacles and temptations with equal fortitude and striving dedicatedly to do better for others. The struggles that they face could ruin any other weaker people, but they survive and teach others by example. One might think that he presents them in a positive light, but he has just put two people with a good heart and that is what makes them appear in good light despite the many falls they suffer.

The thing with such goodness, especially in our times, is that it begins to look like an alien concept. It seems phony, fake, too goody-goody, far-fetched even to read about characters glowing with a halo over their heads. But maybe it’s a necessary throwback. Maybe it is good to re-discover old world charm and niceties. Maybe it is imperative that we fall for such stories, from time to time.

The book might not be a great book, but it is a simple heart warming story which must be read, sometime.


You can also read it here.


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