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Book Review: The Healer’s Daughters

The Healer’s Daughters. Jay Amberg. Northfield, IL: Amika Press, July 17, 2019, Trade Paperback and E-book, 311 pages.

Reviewed by Starza Thompson.

The Healer’s Daughters is an intense page-turner that takes its readers on a wild journey through Bergama, Turkey. Focused on the Boroğlu family and what happens when the current political environment intertwines with archeological findings, author Jay Amberg mixes the rich history of Turkey with the modern-day horrors of terrorist bombings, corrupt officials, and lustful greed. Every single page is filled with tension and twists, making this book very hard to put down. 

The novel opens with a terrorist bombing attack in Bergama that kills twenty-three people and devastates the city. Tuğçe Iskan, an employee at the Ministry of Culture, is sent to investigate. She finds an ancient coin in the pocket of a little boy who fell victim to the bombing, propelling her to seek out former colleague and archeologist, Özlem Boroğlu. A year earlier, Özlem found an ancient letter written by physician and philosopher Galen that many believe discloses the location of his treasure. The coin that Tuğçe found may be a part of that cache. The letter and coin put both Tuğçe and Özlem in the sightlines of the Hamit family, who make a living by selling and stealing artifacts. The Hamits will stop at nothing to find the location of Galen’s cache, even if it means hurting Özlem and her family. 

My favorite part of the novel is also the most horrifying. A child is taken from his family to learn how to fight and become a martyr. His storyline is told through his point of view and is devastatingly heartbreaking. The child is brainwashed and willing to die to be “honored,” and his family doesn’t have a choice of whether or not the child should be indoctrinated into the ISIL way. This narrative truly showcased Amberg’s talent of getting into the mind of his characters and creating strong empathy among his readers.

The Healer’s Daughters is rich with Turkey history, cultural descriptions, and flashbacks to Galen’s time that give context around the hunt for his cache. There are many characters in the story, which at times is hard to follow given the number of people introduced who often are only in the story a short time. As a result, at times the narrative feels disjointed and scattered. I would have liked more character development with fewer characters so that I could be more empathetic to their situation and storyline. 

Throughout this story, it's evident that Amberg has a passion for Turkey and Turkish history. He deeply understands the political climate and how to create a realistic world that mixes the cultural aspects of Turkey with the terrorist threats that we are aware of all too well. With twelve books under his belt, Amberg has a knack for building suspense and creating a plot with numerous twists and turns. 

The Healer’s Daughters is a spellbinding story that will have readers on a rollercoaster of emotion as they follow the many characters through terrorist attacks and treasure hunts. If you like suspense mixed with historical fiction and topped with some action and adventure, then I highly recommend this book.

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