The Healer of Fox Hollow by Joann Rose Leonard

The Healer of Fox Hollow by Joann Rose Leonard is a story of change, struggle, and perseverance in the great Smoky Mountain town of Fox Hollow between the 1960s and 1970s (around the time of the Vietnam War).  Layla and Ed Tompkin live a hard life, carving it from the mountains that surround their home without a feminine hand to guide or support them.  Layla spends parts of her day during the week with the Yeagleys, who tend to take the Bible and its teachings literally, while her father works to keep them clothed and fed.  After a tragic accident, Layla is rendered mute and must find her way once again in the face of adversity.

“Looking at the gaunt, unshaven face of her sister’s husband, sapped of its usual outdoor burnish and as vacant as an abandoned house, Avis could barely breathe.  She retrieved a hankie from her pocket, pressed each eye and gave her nose a vigorous, head-clearing blow.  In an attempt to squeeze her crumbling composure back together, Avis clutched the balled-up fist of one hand with her other and began again.”  (Page 15 ARC)

Layla’s accident renders her different from her fellow classmates and neighbors and her father’s decision to keep them out of church on Sunday, further separates her from the community, until she is seen as a healer.  The community is very willing to turn to her in times of ailment or crisis, even when they have their own community doctor available, but they continue to see her as an outsider.  It’s almost as if the community is using her, and she’s almost too willing to help.  However, as Layla grows up and becomes a woman, it is clear that she becomes more conflicted about her role in the community and while she enjoys providing comfort, even she is not convinced of her powers.

Leonard’s prose is folksy, which is appropriate given the community she is describing and the situations she is portraying.  Layla is a quiet and unassuming girls swept into a role that she has little control over until she becomes an adult.  Given the choice, she relies on the teachings of her father to weigh the pros and cons of her decision and choose what is best for her upon her high school graduation.  In a community where God plays a large role and where struggles are the norm, Layla must face her fair share and more of these troubles, but through her gifts, she discovers the power of empathy and connection as a way to heal herself and others.

As Layla comes in contact with the severely injured and broken — soldiers of the Vietnam War — she must contend with feelings she never thought would be hers to feel or to dream about.  Leonard does well portraying the maturation of Layla while maintaining her naivete about certain things, and she easily demonstrates the psychological and physical pains of soldiers from the Vietnam War.  However, when Damian appears into Layla’s life, it is out of the blue and would have been better choreographed in another way, especially given his connection to the community doctor’s son, Brian.  Despite this minor flaw of a “convenient” meeting and what it stirs up in Layla, The Healer of Fox Hollow by Joann Rose Leonard is heartfelt tale of adaptation, survival, and love filtered through the heat of the sunset over the Smoky Mountains.

About the Author:

Wisconsin born JOANN ROSE LEONARD was Texas-raised and has chigger bite scars to prove it, theatre-trained and frostbitten at Northwestern University, and worked as an actress in New York.   She studied mime in Paris with Marcel Marceau while dubbing films into English to earn her daily baguette; raised 9 kids (2 human, 7 goats) in State College PA, where she was founder and director of MetaStages, the youth theatre program at Penn State University, and, with her husband, Bob, a retired professor and theatre director, has relocated to CA to be nearer their sons, Jonathan (DJ Child, an award-winning music producer and founder of the multi-media company, Project Groundation) and Joshua (actor/filmmaker including The LieHigher Ground and The Blair Witch Project.) Joann is author of The Soup Has ManyEyes: From Shtetl to Chicago; One Family’s Journey Through History“From Page to Stage,” a chapter in Holt Rinehart Winston’s Elements of Literature and two collections of multicultural plays, “All the World’s a Stage Volumes I & II” (Baker’s Plays).   In her research for The Healer of Fox Hollow, Joann discovered that the truth the novel is based upon is infinitely stranger than the fiction she wrote.

For more info on Joann and her work, please visit her Website.

This is my 51st book for the New Authors Reading Challenge 2012.

***To win a copy of this book, you must be a resident of the United States or Canada and be over age 18.

Leave a comment on this post by July 21, 2012, at 11:59PM EST.


  1. I tend to like books set in the Smoky Mountains … there’s just SOMETHING about that area that really gets to me.

    Thanks for being on the tour Serena.

  2. This sounds like an intriguing book!

  3. For some reason I don’t seem to read many books set in the 60s and 70s. I am not sure why that is… Great review of the book, though. (No need to enter me in the give-away.)

  4. Martha Lawson says

    Great review! I’m putting this on the wish list, in case I don’t win it!!!

  5. I think I’d appreciate this story. Thanks for the chance to win.

  6. No need to enter me in the giveaway. I passed on this the first time around only because it doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, but it does sound as if it would be a good book for a club to discuss.

  7. I so appreciate your thoughts on the story, Serena, especially since some of the subject matter was “out of your comfort zone.” Some of it was out of mine, too, and was actually chosen for that reason in order to explore what connects us beneath all the differences. Understanding the “why” of how people behave helps me to be more open to the “how.” And that helps in seeking, along with so many others, to heal the brokenness in ourselves, in our relationships to each other, and to nature.
    Love your photographs!

    • Thanks for checking out the photos. I really was surprised by this story. I really enjoyed it and read through it more quickly than I expected. It was well-paced.

  8. I’m glad you enjoyed it. It must be a quick read because you were barely into the book when I saw you on Sat. No need to enter me; I put the giveaway in my sidebar though. 😉

  9. This sounds interesting, and unlike anything I usually read. Thanks for the giveaway.

  10. I love the setting of the Great Smoky Mountains and can see why the folksy voice would be appropriate.

  11. Beth Hoffman says

    Your review of this book has me totally fascinated! Yet another title I’m adding to my list. Have a great week, Serena!

    • I’m so glad, but hey, you may win it! 🙂 I really was surprised by this book because the religious nature of the narrative is a bit outside my comfort zone in terms of faith healing.


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