Book Review: Balm by Dolen Perkins-Valdez


Title: Balm

Author: Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Release: May, 2015

Publisher: Amistad

“Despite the taste for solitude she’d craved in her youth, she now longed for someone with whom she could share her impressions.”

– Sadie, Balm

When I first picked up this book, my impression was that it would be an easy read filled with magical elements that would be light-hearted and entertaining. Boy was I wrong.

First and foremost this is a book about the trials we all experience with family.

We have Sadie who was married off to a soldier because her family needed money. He dies before she relocates to their new home together and she sttuggles to rebuild her life amidst the horrors of being a medium. She can converse with the spirit world and has found her calling in this world.

Then we have Madge, oh how I love Madge. She is born as a free colored women amongst three sisters who treat her as though she shouldn’t be there. Madge also travels out on her own to forge a life for herself.

Both of these women are carrying their burdens and find one another in that process. At first, they are both untrusting of one another as whites and coloreds were still very distrustful of each other, but through their very different, but similar burdens, they each find their own peace.

We also have Thomas Harrison, also known as “Horse” or “Hemp”. He was raised on a slave plantation, his wife and step-daughter stolen from the plantation during the war. As he finds his freedom through serving in the army, he sets off on a journey to find his lost wife. In that search, he meets Madge and finds another piece of himself that he didn’t know existed any longer.

An amazing story about love, life and the burdens we all carry as we try to find our place in the wide world around us.

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